Young Muslims and Christians reluctant to share their faith online, study says
They fear being excluded and losing job opportunities, a research among members of ethnic and religious minorities in Norway shows.
CNE.news, SAGE · OSLO · 12 JANUARY 2022 · 10:39 CET
According to a recent study of the University of Agder in Norway, young Norwegian Muslims and Christians “carefully consider what type of religious content they share in social media, to avoid social exclusion and conflict” and not to miss job opportunities.
Associate professors at Department of Sociology and Social Work of the University of Agder, Ronald Mayora Synnes and Irene Trysnes, interviewed 25 young people (13 female and 12 male), aged between 16 and 35, who are active in two Muslim and two Christian minority congregations in Oslo: an Eritrean and a Chinese church and two Muslim mosques.
The research aims to “examine how young Muslims and Christians with ethnic minority backgrounds in Oslo reflect on their use of social media as a way to present themselves and their religiosity”.
The authors of the research divided the respondents in 3 groups: those who avoid to share or publish anything related to religion on social media; the ones who “maintain a clear distinction between how they present themselves in the various groups they participate in”; and those who share religious content.
Fear of stigmatisation
Those who refrain from expressing their religious beliefs and identities on social media, “are mostly male, and they had different reasons for refraining from doing so”, says the research.
Most of them, “are afraid of being excluded from the community of friends and being given stereotypical attitudes and characteristics”, points out Synnes.
However, while “Christians are particularly afraid of negative discussion or criticism from friends who were not religious”, Muslims, specially boys, “are exposed to a double stigma where the fear of being seen as extremists and terrorists also comes into play”, adds the professor.
Furthermore, another “reason why informants held back from publishing posts with religious content was because of the fear of limiting their career opportunities”, underlines the study.
One of the survey respondents, a Muslim youth leader, explains that “it’s simply because of my professional situation. I work in a financial environment that is very small in Norway, and it is in some way career suicide”.
Another survey released in Norway in 2019 by KIFO, the Department of Church, Religion and Philosophy Research, also found that mentioning religious activities ( both Muslim and Christian) on the CV reduced the chances of being called for a job interview, reported CNE.news.
Separating religious from non-religious friends
The second group of respondents are those who “do not want to show their public profile on social media to other members of the congregation because they were afraid of their profile being monitored by adults and faith leaders”, explains the study.
“Within the religious group, they could share religious content, but there was no information about their social life outside the congregation”.
According to the research, “on social media in general, they did not share religious content with their friends, and they deleted all friend requests from adult members of the congregation. Their medial self-presentations appear to be clearly separated, with friends sorted into different groups”.
Different reasons to share content
The study points out that Christian and Muslim have different motivations for sharing religious content on social media.
“For the Christians, it was mostly about wanting to show their religious identity to their friends, but for the Muslims, it was more about confronting and changing a negative image of Islam in Norwegian society”.
All respondents that choose to share religious content “are cautious about what they chose to share”, says the research.
Furthermore, “Muslim girls were less reluctant to share religious content on social media than the Muslim boys, and the girls in the current study who were most clearly in favour of sharing religious content on social media were those who wore a hijab”.
Finally, the study also shows that some of those who talk about their faith online, do it by “sharing ‘harmless’ and positive content with a religious undertone, often related to religious celebrations, holidays or popular religious beliefs and symbols that allowed for different interpretations”.
Read the full study here.