Social media and spirituality

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |

HOUSTON, Texas (Christian Examiner) -- Instagram photos of celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kendall Jennar, and Selena Gomez attending church services are increasingly common these days, but a survey from The Pew Research Center on "Religion and Electronic Media" shows high-profile personalities are not the only ones using social media to share about their religion.

From Facebook timelines to Twitter feeds about 20 percent of American adults said that in the past week they had shared about their religious faith on social networking websites either asking for prayer, offering a blessing, quoting Scripture, announcing their attendance at a religious service, or a number of other possibilities.

The survey, released Nov. 6, questioned 3,217 randomly selected participants online and by mail, May 30-June 30.

The findings also reveal that 46 percent of Americans said they had seen someone else share "something about their religious faith" online.

The study did not suggest that social media displaced "offline participation," but instead offered that participation in electronic religious activities complemented more traditional methods of religious engagement. Forty percent reported sharing their faith "offline, in a real-life setting."

"It's the people who attend church most often who are most likely to engage in online religious activity," Greg Smith, associate director of religion research for Pew Research Center told the Religion News Service.Those with the highest church attendance are white evangelicals and black protestants.

Among adults who say they attend religious services at least once a week, 31 percent report sharing their faith online in the previous week. However, only 8 percent of those who seldom or never attend religious services share their faith online.

Age also played a factor in the findings as adults 50 years old or more preferred to watch religious television programming while 18 to 29 year-olds were about twice as likely to share their faith online. The latter perhaps illustrated by the growing crowd of younger Hollywood celebrities using social media to share their spiritual journeys and transformational insights.