Social media: a new religion? (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
This thesis argues that in contemporary Western society, social media has become a New Religious Movement that expresses elements of the New Age Californian Counterculture. The methodological process I use throughout this thesis to convey the new religion of social media is a social constructionist mixed-methods approach, utilising an autoethnography analysis of my own social media use and a textual analysis using visual analysis techniques to analyse a sample of Instagram influencers. Key findings from the autoethnography suggest some social media users use social media platforms to create alternative realities online, present the self as worthy of devotion to encourage engagement from their followers, and that the smartphone acts as a New Age Californian Counterculture bible/sacred text substitute. Key findings from the textual analysis using visual analysis techniques suggest that the sample of Instagram influencers in this research convey some attributes of the New Age Californian Counterculture on Instagram demonstrating that social media is an implicit religion. These Instagram influencers also act as contemporary totems in our contemporary Western world; they are furthermore a cult of saints social media users attach themselves to in order to help understand and explain the world around them, especially in online culture. These findings demonstrate how social media is a New Religious Movement that reflects elements of the New Age Californian Counterculture in new ways because of how social media and religion are interconnected in everyday life.