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Spreading the word: exploring spiritual consumption on social media

Janine Williams (SMIB, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Jayne Krisjanous (SMIB, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 9 January 2023

Issue publication date: 16 January 2023

46

Abstract

Purpose

The rapidly increasing practice of “sharing” and “liking” religious and spiritually inspiring content on social media platforms suggests it is engaging for consumers, but it is unclear why. This study aims to investigate consumer interpretations of spiritual content on social media in relation to participatory roles.

Design/methodology/approach

Qualitative in-depth interviews and thematic analysis are used. Members of social networks actively engaged in social media posting were identified through researcher networks and snowballing.

Findings

The social media space facilitates enhanced consumer agency in the consumption of spiritual messages which are readily accessible in this secular context. Three levels of interpretive meaning for consumers, conditional on the perceived sender motivations and temporality of receipt and related to participatory roles are identified. Despite being widely disseminated and immersed in the profane, some participants receive spiritual inspiration, which helps them achieve self-transcendence. Others receive inspiration through affirmation of their values and identity; however for a few, inspirational messages are met with scepticism and are not meaningful. Social media facilitates consumers’ ability to provide others with positive inspiration, however, this is not always their intent.

Originality/value

This work contributes unique insight regarding consumption of spirituality in a social media environment highlighting the importance of sender mediation and temporal context with implications for spiritual meaning and online engagement with spiritual content. A unique typology relating interpretive meaning to participatory roles is presented.

Keywords

Citation

Williams, J. and Krisjanous, J. (2023), "Spreading the word: exploring spiritual consumption on social media", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 40 No. 1, pp. 124-135. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-02-2021-4450

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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