Sunday, October 27, 2013

Final Thoughts

Through my research over the last several weeks, I have enjoyed observing how Christians use Instagram to perform their religion in their daily lives. I have discovered many different ways that they go about doing this. The three most common ways that I have encountered in my research were through the posting of bible verses, posting pictures with captions asking for prayer, and through pictures of users interacting with religion through their hobbies, namely art. From my observations throughout this case study, my research question has been edited, refined, and has ended up here:

"This case study will explore how Christians create or act out religion in their daily lives in the context of Instagram through the use of symbols and images measured by the examination of their posts and how others respond to them."

            Through my focus on Christian users, one of the things I have noticed is that when they post something, it is aimed towards others Christians; their audience is intended to be other believers. With posts of bible verses, prayer requests, and their art, it is evident that they believe the importance of what they have posted will resonate greatest with other Christians. Other believers will be able to relate to or be encouraged by the post. They may even respond, or in the case of the users asking for prayer, interact with the user and take action to pray for them. While a non-Christian would probably not look at the post and be confused or offended by it, they may just not regard it as significant.
            Another trend I have noticed through the examples I have chosen is that each post is a reflection of the user’s personal interaction with the Lord. Through a bible verse, it is a display of what that user has been reading or a verse that they have come across that they have found particular helpful for their life at that time. By asking for prayer, it displays that they have a faith in something that goes beyond themselves and have acknowledged the need for God’s power to intervene. And lastly, by posting pictures of art created the user it illustrates how they are spending their time and the hobbies that they choose to take part in and how they relate that to their relationship with God. They are choosing to incorporate their identity as a Christian into other aspects of their lives.
            I have discussed before how Instagram allows for geographical barriers to be crossed and can connect people from all over the world. I believe that in some form, Christians that use Instagram to perform their daily religion are seeking or giving encouragement from others believers. Through posting bible verses, prayer requests, pictures of art, and interacting with other believers through them, they are sending the message to others that they believe in the importance of Christian community. Whether they are sharing a bible verse that has helped them or are asking for prayer in a specific situation, they are communicating with other Christians. Through “likes” and comments on the photos, users can be encouraged that they are not alone and have that community surrounding them.

In summary, the results of this case study illustrate that Instagram serves as a forum for Christians to engage in community and give and receive encouragement to one another. 

Friday, October 11, 2013


For the last couple of weeks, my examples have been displays of how Christianity is performed through Instagram with a focus on words either in the photo or in the caption. But one of the benefits of Instagram is that it allows for broader freedom not restricting their users to only speech. While my three examples this week still follow the trends I mentioned in last week’s blog, they illustrate them in a different way than what I have found in the past. I found that a lot of Christian users live out their religious devotion through some of their hobbies, and in particular this week, through art.
The first example is a picture of an abstract painting, and painted in the corner, it says, “Father, let my heart be after you.” Through the caption we discover that the user painted it herself, but even without it, its reflection of her daily interaction with Christianity is very apparent.

The second example is a framed craft that says in fancy writing “Choose joy.” Just by looking at the picture it is hard to tell whether or not it is a painting or just colored on a paper, but through the caption we discover that it was given to the user by a friend, and it was meant as a means of encouragement.

The third example is a crafted canvas surrounded by paper plates with paint colors and brushes in a park with the words “darkness even in light” painted in the corner. This picture actually displays the process of it being painted and illustrates clearly the hobby in action.

The messages sent from these three examples are transmitted more through the image than the words. They are all still a reflection of the user’s personal time with God, but the image represents that they are accomplishing it through a specific hobby. These posts are also aimed towards other Christians because it is other Christians that can relate and be encouraged by them. Incorporating their personal relationship with the Lord into their everyday lives is something that Christ-followers have in common, and these posts are meant to express that. The primary message being sent here is that being a Christian seeps into many aspects of the simple, everyday life, including our hobbies. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Now Trending

Through my observations these past couple weeks, I have noticed a trend in the examples that I have chosen- all are a reflection of their personal time with the Lord. In the three examples displaying bible verses, all the posts revealed either what they had been reading, something that made them stop and think, or something that they were looking forward to; but in all instances, their post was a reflection, however small, of their personal interaction with the Bible. In the three examples that had captions asking for prayer, their posts revealed what was going on in their personal lives right at that moment and that they were thinking of God in the midst of it. The fact that they were asking for prayer displayed their belief in the power of prayer and their trust in God to answer it.
Another trend I have noticed is that the user’s audience seems to be other Christians. In posting bible verses and asking for prayer, both are aimed at their Christian followers. Bible verses were posted in hopes to encourage other believers, and followers that do not hold the words of the Bible to be true may not find the same amount of encouragement from a verse from the Bible that a Christian follower would. In the postings asking for prayer, their intention was to engage their fellow believers in praying for them and their situation. Through this common trend, I can summarize that there is a strong sense of community between Christians, and Instagram is one of the ways that they choose to interact and display that community.
            After a couple weeks of observing and taking notice of certain trends, I have come to a final research question that will help me focus as I dig deeper into this study of user-generated religion in social media:

“This case study is exploring how Christians perform and live out religion in their daily lives through Instagram measured through examination of their posts and how people respond to them.”