Friday, October 28, 2011

Online Identity

The idea of identity in relation to religion has over time changed.  Identity began as something very strong, concrete and simple, being a member of a certain church within a specific domination defined your religious identity.  Now though, with the creation of the Internet and online churches and religious forums, this solid definition of identity has began to evolve into something more dynamic and less static. Having these resources online, such as religious blogs, allows an individual to construct a more flexible religious identity. Instead of being bound to one church with a specific list of beliefs, a person now can be a member of an array of different online church forums, discussing their beliefs with others.  Digital media allows for an individual to craft their own identity instead of having it crafted for them, thus strengthening their ability to perform and act out their religious identity. As Lovheim states, “These web applications provide new genres where individual self-performance is combined with interactivity through the possibility of links and comments (cf. Miller & Shepherd 2004).” A constant belief in our society is that there is no “perfect religion”, but now with all the different platforms, a person could construct their perfect religion.  As Lovheim also states, “New media genres enable individuals to present texts and images of private moments and reflections in a public setting, which enhances expectations of openness and intimacy. At the same time, they enhance users’ possibilities of monitoring and editing self-representations, which gives them an apprehension of greater control over the representation of identity” (p. 7).  A prime example of this flexible online identity is the “Debating Christianity and Religion” forum.  On this website, members are encouraged to engage in debates regarding all areas of Christianity, from politics to philosophy.  This illustrates the fact that religious identity can be strengthen through the use of digital media, individuals can enter online forums and argue and articulate their beliefs without being looked down upon by their physical church. Digital media allows for an individual to define who they are while commutating, whether debating or conversing about their beliefs on many platforms, thus strengthening their identity. 

Identity by Mia Lövheim, pages 1-33. 

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