Constructing an Identity Online: Logging-On as “Catholic”

in Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture
Open Access

This article explores the nature of Catholic identity, as constructed in a Catholic social media site, PhatMass. This study, a month-long virtual ethnography of PhatMass, took place during the significant global Catholic event in February to March of 2013—the former Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and the new Pope Francis’s election. James Carey’s (1989) ritual view of communication sheds light on PhatMass participant engagement with social media, popular culture, and Catholic identity during these online discussions.

The findings from this ethnography indicate that religion, media, and popular culture meet in the religious, media-using, culture participant who communicates, consumes, or creates meaning through daily ritual on technology. The blend of pop culture content and traditional Catholic beliefs on PhatMass reveals a broader Catholic identity emerging online. The PhatMass conversation provides details about how Catholic identity formation takes place in a world increasingly marked by online communication.

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