Facebook and its Spiritual Uses

Facebook and its Spiritual Uses August 7, 2012

From Kristin Deasy:

Only six percent of Facebook users have joined a faith-based group in America, despite the fact that nearly half the country uses the social-networking site a couple times a week and over 80% of the population ascribes to some form of religion.

The research, released this week by Public Religion Research Institute, also found that the most active spiritual users of social media are members of Christianity’s evangelical movement — not surprising given its fervent proselytizing ways.

But even this group is less active than you might think, with less than 20 percent of white evangelical Protestants having said something church-related on their personal Facebook page or other social networking site, according to the study.

The institute’s head, Robert Jones, told CNN“[w]e were a little bit surprised” by the findings, saying they had assumed “there would be a higher usage given all the press that has surrounded pastors on Twitter and people posting prayers online.”

But Americans also traditionally value keeping their religion private, and with concerns growing over the safety of information shared on social-networking platforms, this might help explain the lack of online faith-based activity.


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  • Who wrote these questions? They don’t describe the behavior of me OR my Christian friends, who regularly:
    – Post quotes from Christian authors
    – Post Bible verses
    – Post links to Christian blog posts or videos
    – Post that they are praying on the walls of friends
    – Ask for prayer as a status update
    – Link to Christian music
    – “Share” posts from Christian organizations who post Facebook
    I suppose this DOES indicate that most Christians don’t brand their Christianity by overtly mentioning their own church home.

  • Kel

    I haven’t joined a faith-based FB group because doing so might give the appearance that I am “in” with a group when I might only be curious about their content. But if friends see that I am in that group, they might make assumptions I didn’t intend for them to make. Better to not join.

    And I think maybe more of us are wanting to distance ourselves from our brethren who post inane or outlandish sayings and then insinuate that if we don’t re-post them, we don’t love Jesus.

  • Catherine

    I agree somewhat with both previous posters. There are several FB sites from which I receive meaningful devotional and scriptural info weekly. Though I may “like” some friends posts I very seldom repost. But I have found if I make a faith- based comment on news sites, I am attacked by atheists and liberals.

  • metanoia

    I use FB strictly as a site to post silly stuff. Anything of a serious nature I blog. I don’t believe FB should be taken seriously as an evangelistic or devotional tool. It’s been my experience that most who try to post something evangelistic are probably preaching to the choir of their friends and hose who post something “devotional” usually post something arcane or Scripture grossly taken out of context. I know, Bah, humbug!

  • MatthewS

    I unfriended metanoia because of all the silly stuff he posted.

    ha! just kidding, I don’t even know who he (or she) is.

    I do try to share and like items that communicate faith in an acceptable way once in a while but more often I try to post things that reflect a certain element of who I am and what I find interesting, and often just something that is funny. For me this is usually external links or images, never the chain letter stuff. I figure that anyone who finds the same sorts of things interesting as I do might find the faith-related things interesting as well.

    The chain letters that insinuate that only 3% of the people love Jesus enough to send them on… There is nothing new about that, and I remember that sort of thing back in the mid 1990s when email was first becoming popular, but those things are at least as annoying as they ever were!

  • Kenny Johnson

    I don’t tend to post much Christian/religious stuff on my FB page (though I certainly have). I do belong to (and administer) my church’s FB page. I also “Like” a few people on FB like Greg Boyd.

    Funny enough, I find people who post a lot of religious stuff on FB to be annoying. Especially when it’s those “chain mail” type updates — like “I love Jesus Christ and I bet 99% of Christians out there are ashamed to make this their status update!”

  • I second what Metanoia said. FB is where I keep it light. It is just to hard to have a serious conversation. I blog about more serious things.

  • janieh

    I wonder if they asked about FB posts re: politics. I get a steady stream of pro-gun, anti-health care, anti-Obama and seriously anti-Muslim comments from Evangelicals. To them, these posts ARE a part of their faith. In fact, it seem to be the major part, if you can judge by the time they invest evangelizing about it.

    It’s one reason I don’t claim to be Evangelical anymore. And I’m actually fairly conservative theologically and mostly not liberal, politically speaking.

    It’s just that many have merged their version of Americanism so much into their version of Christianity that they are not distinguishable.

  • Matt Edwards

    I manage a lot of my church’s social media work, and the questions in the Public Religion survey aren’t targeted at how Christians really use social media.

    First, the survey found that Christians aren’t joining religious groups. I have found Facebook groups to be ineffective, having tried it for our church and failing. Facebook pages, on the other hand, are very effective. Administrators of the page can track who is interacting with the content, and we have found it to be more effective than print media (and I am in a multi-generational church).

    Second, status updates about being in church? I use Facebook for religious purposes, but I have never posted a status update that I was in church. More often people post inspiring Christian quotes, snarky culture-war memes, or prayer requests. In fact, I think the best question to track Facebook use for religious purposes would have been, “Have you ever posted a Facebook status requesting prayer?”

    It’s quite a jump from “Christians aren’t joining religious groups or posting status updates about being in church” to “Christians aren’t integrating social media into their religious life.” They measured for the wrong things.

  • James

    Matt, I do the same for our church, and my experiences precisely mirror your own.