Ordained by the Algorithm: Female (Religious) Influencers on TikTok

White, Louisa, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hedstrom, Matthew, American Studies, The University of Virginia
Swartz, Lana, Media Studies, The University of Virginia

With the “decline” of organized religion, there is the question of where people now go to find meaning. While houses of worship previously served as sites of both community and spiritual reassurance, has another medium arisen that can perform these same services in a digital age? In this paper, I theorize a new type of religious authority that can be observed on the social media platform TikTok. Using three young women spanning three major faiths, I analyze the ways in which they have harnessed their femininity, cultural currency, and understanding of their respective communities to forge relationships with their followers and solidify their positions as influential figures. Focusing on two major themes, authority and modesty, this paper will give comparative insight into the ways in which “authentic” connection and, consequently, a sense of meaning is cultivated in an increasingly tech-driven society.

MA (Master of Arts)
Social Media, Religion, Authority, Gender, Modesty, TikTok
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