#DigitalFaith – Spiritual Exploration and Discovery Online

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Despite the decline in religious affiliation people continue to express a desire to explore spiritual themes, especially opportunities to reflect on their beliefs, values, and purpose. Exploring one’s relationship with spiritual topics, if supported, can stimulate self-discovery, learning, and personal growth, however, many have grown hesitant to trust traditional religious venues (e.g. churches, synagogues, religious education).

Houses of worships and religious education, once regulated how people engaged with religious and spiritual content however the proliferation of and access to technology has created many more alternative avenues for spiritual discovery. Digital spaces that explore religion and spirituality can offer individuals an environment to engage in broader social and intellectual experimentation as well as personal introspection. Digital spaces can also offer an opportunity to connect to a personal faith community on a global scale as well as interact with different faith and belief systems. Digital spaces that facilitate spiritual discovery and religious dialogue include online communities–such as Patheos, which provide opportunities to explore diverse faith perspectives through participatory practices.

Advances and Exposure in Digital Technology

The development of mobile technology and proliferation of social media platforms has bred such a familiarity, we sometime become oblivious to its pervasiveness. Individuals have become more experienced with technology. Children have begun to have earlier exposure to various digital technologies and the omnipresent nature of mobile technology keeps people more connected than any other time in history. Social media has also been intentionally integrated in more aspects of our lives, often for branding and marketing purposes. Furthermore, use of digital technology has been identified as a professional skill needed for career advancement in increasingly more professions. Digital spaces have become uniquely positioned to provide an enriching experience where individuals can explore social, intellectual, and personal pursuits. So it follows that these digital environments would become crucial platforms for spiritual and religious exploration.

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Religious and Spiritual Exploration Online 

Online communities and social media platforms offer individuals all over the world, even those in remote areas, the opportunity to connect to a faith community, which transcends physical space. Community members can find resources and support (e.g. Patheos) while religious and spiritual leaders can directly connect with their followers via social media platforms (e.g. Pope Francis’s Twitter @Pontifex).

The democratization of the internet has allowed more people from more diverse perspectives the opportunity to share their experiences with others. Religious and spiritual minorities can find community online, which can strengthen both personal and group identity. Despite the potential for conflict with antagonistic (and often anonymous) internet “trolls”, digital communities provide brave spaces for constructive dialogue around issues of faith. As access to the internet and other mobile technology continues to grow, bringing even more voices to the conversation, these digital spaces have the potential to become fertile environments for connection. But how can we best engage with these digital platforms and tools?

Beginning Your #DigitalFaith Journey

The internet harnesses the power of interconnectivity made possible by globalization, providing users access to people from all over the world–whether that is your local Hindu temple or a Hindu community on the other side of the planet. For many people the internet is an extension of their off line lives. They create and maintain a digital presence that interacts with other individuals/communities. With a tool like the internet we have the opportunity to learn from each other while also having the opportunity for self-directed personal exploration.

Individuals can engage in digital spaces dedicated to religious and spiritual themes for their own personal development and transformation. Beginning your #DigitalFaith journey starts with exploring the digital spaces and resources that you find most interesting. Let yourself get lost down a rabbit hole of information. Once you stumble upon an idea or story that speaks to you, follow that spark to find out more. And If you don’t find something that vibes with the way you make spiritual connections don’t be afraid to create the type of supportive virtual community you need. #DigitalFaith is all about the interesting interplay of religious and spiritual development within digital spaces. We are all here on a journey and I’d love to hear about your spiritual adventures and discoveries online. So feel free to share your comments below or continue to the conversation at @SableManson #DigitialFaith.

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About Sable Manson