Drone cameras and social media pages, how religion keeps up with the digital age

15 October, 2019

Photo: ‘Musician in Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, playing music as part of prayer procession’ from SRN’s SG Photobank

In an editorial in Channel NewsAsia, Assistant Professor Alvin Lim Eng Hui (NUS Department of English Language and Literature) discusses the increasing penetration of new media and digital technology into Singapore’s religious landscape, and its resulting benefits and challenges.

Many religions and its followers have leveraged on new media platforms to broaden their reach and memorialise their processions. Examples include some Chinese temples setting up their own Facebook pages and selling recordings of their festivals on DVDs, the Hindu Endowments Board live-streaming their annual Fire Walking Festival, and the social media savviness of Christian pastors in Singapore. Asst Prof Lim says that new media has allowed followers to connect with their religious institutions and leaders, and encouraged the younger generation to promote, document, and learn from their leaders the practices of their religion. In turn, this has facilitated stronger connections within religious communities through overcoming issues of uncertainty and distance.

However, there are challenges to the increasing proliferation of technology in sacred spaces. Asst Prof Lim suggests that the online presence of religion can be dwarfed by other distractions on social media such as Instagram stories, gifs and memes shared across WhatsApp, and advertisements. He also worries that the same digital space can be a site for religious intolerance, accentuated by online falsehoods; an overzealous spread of an ideological message or sensationalised fake news can undermine Singapore’s cohesive multi-religious landscape. To that, Asst Prof Lim believes that there is an ethical responsibility in lending a voice to gods through their representation on social media.

Read the article here.