Page 39

Around 20 million of the 40 million verses shared on Twitter this year, as far as I can tell, came from Bible spam accounts – accounts that do nothing but tweet Bible verses all day (hundreds of times a day in some cases).

Rachel  Barach,  the  General  Manager  of  Bible  Gateway  –  the  web’s  foremost  online   Bible  –  commented  on  this  phenomenon  in  an  interview  with  Christianity  Today11.   ‘Taking  a  verse  out  of  its  context  erodes  its  meaning  and  can  be  dangerously   misleading,’  she  warned  of  ‘Bible  spam’.  But  she  added:  ‘We  can  take  comfort  in   knowing  “the  Word  of  God  is  alive  and  active”  (Hebrews  4:12),  and  God  is  sovereign  to   use  even  our  mistakes  and  misunderstandings  to  his  great  purpose.’     One  man  from  the  South  East  of  England  described  himself  as  ‘currently  unaffiliated’   church-­‐wise  but  explained  that  ‘faith  is  important  to  me’  and  social  media  ‘enables  me   to  share  it  with  my  online  contacts’.     This  echoes  work  by  Steve  Aisthorpe.  Researching  for  his  2016  book  ‘The  Invisible   Church’,  he  interviewed  numerous  Christians  that  –  for  various  reasons  –  had  parted   company  with  their  local  congregations.     One  young  woman  he  interviewed  lamented  that  she  was  ‘out  of  contact  with  church   through  illness’  and  that  she  missed  it.     I love Jesus more than ever and I couldn’t have survived a minute of what I’ve been through without him. My faith is growing. What is it with church? I have contact with a few Christians on Facebook which I have found helpful on the whole, though some got so hurt they can be very negative about ‘institutional’ Christianity, and I find that discouraging ’cos church can be brilliant.

Within  the  body  of  survey  responses,  there  is  rich  diversity  of  faith  expression  and   varied  motivation  for  posting  faith-­‐related  content  on  social  media.  It’s  pertinent  to   reflect  back  on  Castells  (2003),  who  observed  that  in  Canadian  research  by  Hampton   and  Wellman  (2000),  Internet  users  were  found  to  have  a  ‘higher  number  of  strong   social  ties  …  than  those  without  [an  Internet  connection]’  and  use  of  web-­‐based   communication  ‘enhanced  sociability  both  at  a  distance  and  in  the  local  community’.       The  findings  are  also  consistent  with  the  view  of  Van  Dijck  (2013)  who  portrays  a   converging  online  world  which  he  considers  destined  to  become  ‘social’.     ‘Sharing’, ‘friending’, ‘liking’, ‘following’, ‘trending’, and ‘favoriting’ have come to denote online practices imbued with specific technological and economic meanings. This process of normalization is part of a larger political and ideological battle over information control in an online world where everything is bound to become ‘social’.

We will  continue  to  explore  this  online  ‘socialisation’  of  faith  communities  in  Chapter  5.                                                                                                                   11

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/june/spamming-­‐good-­‐news-­‐twitter-­‐bots-­‐more-­‐bible-­‐ verses-­‐pastors.html  

Putting Your  Faith  in  Social  Media  

39  

Putting Your Faith in Social Media  

Research findings regarding the social media expression of people of faith. By David Giles, Web and Social Media Manager at The Salvation Ar...

Putting Your Faith in Social Media  

Research findings regarding the social media expression of people of faith. By David Giles, Web and Social Media Manager at The Salvation Ar...