‘Bushirified’: New media as ‘alternative’ spaces for performing religious identities online
While it is no news that new media technologies continue to permeate various aspects of life on the continent, it is useful to examine what the adoption and appropriation of these technologies, particularly social media platforms, by religious leaders and their followers might mean for the performance of religion online. As pastors and churches go online, there seems to be the creation of a ‘new community’, a subculture, who not only worship and satisfy religious appetite on these spaces but also appropriate the identities of religious leaders and express these as part of their online identities. This study takes its root in Campbell’s (2010) Religious -Social Shaping of Technology approach, to interrogate how religious communities negotiate and contest their appropriation of social media as a site of religious expressions of identity, and in this case the ‘Bushirified’ identity. The study deploys ‘Bushirified’ as an anchor through which it interrogates how online members of religious communities use these spaces as platforms for expressing dissent towards ‘unsupportive’ authorities and support for their religious leader through this renaming on social media, as well as what these might mean for the performance of religious identity online. Using a combination of digital ethnography of the pages of Shepherd Bushiri’s ministry on Facebook and Critical Discourse Analysis of the comments of ‘Bushirified’ members on the page, the study finds that the creative appropriation of new digital technologies is giving rise not only to congregations without ‘borders’ but also shaping identity formation online, one click at a time.