From Drums to Cyberspace: Social Media and Beyond

By Michael J. Laney.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Humanity has developed religious systems to explain everything from the creation of the cosmos to life and death. Religious systems developed hierarchies of God, which in turn have been used to provide various uses and gratifications for individuals. In some sense it could be argued mediated religion, as defined as, the means of information dissemination, a tool, or a channel such as radio, television, Internet, World Wide Web sites, Facebook, Twitter, social media, etc., that are used by religious organizations and individuals to reach one or many people (Laney, 1998), originated off the coast of the present-day “Horn of the West” Guinea-Bissau over 25 centuries ago. (Dagan, 1993, p. 44).
At the most basic level of the religious system, the drum as an instrument of religion may represent the earliest application of the uses and gratifications paradigm. Drums are still used amongst African witch doctors today, with perhaps even greater effectiveness than Facebook or Twitter. The widely-used African talking drums “speak” African languages. They are often referred to as mobiles, texts, tweets, and radios.
Based on the correlations observed in this mixed methods study, a segment of the religious audience, albeit nascent, has been motivated to some degree by their religious beliefs, which may influence their selection of media, even Twitter as a form of short hand.
Religious Web use, and social media today takes its place in the colorful lineage of mediated religion that originated 25 centuries ago when the legendary Shango, the African God of Thunder, used the drum to draw closer to God and to satisfy his spiritual needs. The religious Web offers tremendous potential for disseminating a portion of this sacred imperative to those courageous enough to harness the lightning and thunder of cyberspace and carry the vision of Shango into the 21st century.

Keywords: Social Media, Facebook, African Drums, Shamanism, Religious Web Sites, Christian Web Usage, Mediated Religion

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.167-178. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 758.775KB).

Dr. Michael J. Laney

Chair & Professor of Telecommunications, Communication Arts Department, College of Arts & Sciences, Lee University, Cleveland, TN, USA

Dr. Michael J. Laney, has been a member of the Lee University Communication and the Arts faculty since 1995. He was promoted to department chair in the fall of 2002, and full Professor in 2005, supervising 20 full/time & part time faculty members and over 375 students majoring in Communication, Telecommunications, and Drama. A specialist in electronic and broadcast media, he is a dynamic part of the Lee faculty. Dr. Laney teaches Gateway: Freshman Seminar, Introduction to Electronic Media, Electronic Media Management, Speech, Radio/TV Speech, Media Law & Ethics, International Broadcasting, Latin American Media, and Christianity & Media. Dr. Laney, conducts the Communication & the Arts Study Abroad Program. His research interests include the use of new technology for global evangelization; mediated religion; Ethics Education, Media Effects Research, Christian Web site usage, Diversity Awareness and the contributions of African-Americans and Women to the field of mediated religion. His research has been presented at conferences internationally and his research is published in various publications. He serves as the University sponsors for Lambda Pi Eta (National Communication Honor Society), and the founding charter sponsor for UMOJA (The Black Student Association).