Monday, November 8, 2010

The Creation of Spiritual Space on Social Networking Websites

While many aspects of the modern world appear to be continually excluding religion, this may not actually be true. Rather, as Roman Williams argues in his article “Space for God: Lived Religion at Work, Home, and Play*”, religion is manifesting itself in new, more subtle ways . Roman discusses how individuals form sacred spaces, such as the home, office, and outdoor areas, that portray their spirituality. This discussion of the creation of sacred physical spaces leads me to consider how this is done in a different kind of space: cyberspace.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are designed specifically for expressing identity, including spiritual or religious identity, whether explicitly or subtly. Along with efforts to reinforce their own sense of self, people “‘display symbols that have shared meanings to make statements to others about how they would like to be regarded . . . . By displaying such symbols . . . [people] may be intentionally communicating their attitudes and values to others.’” (Roman, p.17). Personal profiles on sites such as Facebook and MySpace provide countless opportunities for individuals to post symbols that reflect their religious or spiritual identity, from obvious ways such as claiming to belong to a particular religion in the “religion” field on the profile, to posting pictures with religious elements, to posting religious or spiritual comments or quotes. Roman gives one example of how a man posts religious symbols in his office to initiate religious conversation. He writes, “Andrew Hsu camouflages his Christianity in artistic renderings of Greek and Hebrew scripture verses that hang on his office wall. He cleverly employs his artwork as a legitimate means to introduce his faith to unsuspecting co-workers” (p. 210). Social networking sites provide vey similar opportunities. By posting interesting comments, pictures, and quotes, the creator of the profile may lead others viewing the profile to ask questions, allowing for an opportunity to spread religious beliefs. Even for individuals who do not closely align with a traditional religion, social network profiles portray spirituality in subtle ways. This too may be done through various symbols posted on the profile. As explicit forms of religion make their way out of everyday life, more subtle forms of spirituality are seeking a way in, not only into physical spaces such as the home, office, and places of recreation, but also into cyberspace and social networking websites in particular.

No comments: