*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on PsychCentral.
A new study suggests that youths who use social media are more likely to develop a “pick-and-choose” approach to customize their faith than those who do not use social media. This attitude runs counter to most religious traditions and, according to researchers, shows a level of non-commitment.
“On Facebook, there is no expectation that one’s ‘likes’ be logically consistent and hidebound by tradition,” said Baylor sociology researcher Paul K. McClure.
“Religion, as a result, does not consist of timeless truths . . . Instead, the Facebook effect is that all spiritual options become commodities and resources that individuals can tailor to meet their needs.”
Social media users also are more likely to see it as acceptable for others of their faith tradition to practice other religions, said McClure, a doctoral candidate in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. However, the so-called “spiritual tinkerers” are not necessarily more likely to believe all religions are true.
Researchers discovered social networking site users are between 50 to 80 percent more likely to be flexible about varied religious beliefs and practices.
The study appears in the journal Sociological Perspectives.
Researchers analyzed telephone survey data from the National Study of Youth and Religion pertaining to social media use, questions about faith, and frequency of attending religious services.
The researchers assert that the ubiquity and use of social networks influence the way young people think of religion, and perhaps a variety of issues.
“What this study suggests is that social technologies have an effect on how we think of religious beliefs and traditional institutions,” McClure said.
“In particular, those who spend time on social networking sites like Facebook are more likely to think it’s perfectly acceptable to experiment with other religions and claim they do not need to remain committed to the teachings of a singular tradition.
“In this way, emerging adults may distinguish themselves from older generations not only in their use of technology, but in how they think of religion.
“The fact that these two phenomena may be related is striking and deserves further research at the intersection of religion and technology.”