Social media can be very useful when used well. Individuals use their accounts to check in with friends, even if it's just once a year when they get a reminder about their birthdays. Churches can use their platforms to build community, attract new members, invite account followers to events they're hosting, and maintain a more open internet presence than an informational website allows.
Not everyone likes reading religious posts on social media, though. In fact, according to a recent Pew survey, many users have actually blocked or unfriended people on their lists due to the religious content they post. The percentage of people who report doing so may be surprising and leave people wondering why they made that choice.
When respondents were asked if they had ever changed their friend settings due to someone's religious posts, one in six said yes. Younger users are more likely to make liberal usage of the block and unfriend options, and Democrats are more likely to cut off social media contact over religious posts than Republicans.
While not every major religious group was represented by enough respondents to produce meaningful data, there were several groups with notable percentages of affirmative answers:
- Atheists - 36%
- Agnostic - 29%
- Jewish - 20%
Only 3% of respondents believe that they have been blocked or unfriended themselves due to posting religious content, even though 17% claim to do so at least occasionally. Since many social media sites do not alert users when friends block them, whether this conclusion is based on fact or assumption remains to be seen.
There are many reasons that someone may decide to snooze, block, or completely unfriend a social media connection. Each user gets to decide what his or her own personal boundaries are when it comes to curating a desirable social media feed.
Some people enjoy a healthy debate. They revel in the opportunity to use social media to engage in lively discussions on topics they might feel uncomfortable talking about in person, such as politics or religion.
Not everyone feels this way, though. For many people, social media is a place to take a break from the stressors in life, which may include arguing with those who hold opinions that are different from theirs. They prefer to have difficult conversations in person, where they can take a more nuanced approach. Therefore, it makes sense that they would block those who insist on pressing the issue online.
Online communication, particularly on social media, tends to make people bolder. Behind the safety of a screen, they may feel less inhibited about expressing views that others find objectionable, such as controversial religious stances.
This behavior sometimes comes with consequences, though. Some of their acquaintances may find their posts offensive, and it can affect their relationships. For example, some may be shocked when a coworker who is always kind in person posts judgmental, moralistic memes on Facebook. It may be best to block this person's posts from the feed so that they can continue to view them in a positive professional light.
Others who block or unfriend people on social media may be concerned about how messages will affect the other people on their friend list. Some algorithms are designed so that any post users engage with can show up on other friends' feeds. Even if they want to comment to push back against the ideas in a religious post, they may decide to block the person instead so that they are not tempted to do anything that might expose others to statements they view as hurtful.
Religious posts on social media can be inspiring to those who share the same faith. However, not everyone wants to see them on their feed, and these users may block or unfriend connections to avoid such posts.