Young religious Norwegians restrain themselves on social media
In Norway, many young people choose to tone down or refrain from expressing their religious beliefs and identities on social media for fear of reactions and lost career opportunities.
Ronald Mayora Synnes and Irene Trysnes, both associate professors at the University of Agder, asked 25 young people with a minority background, Christians and Muslims, about their behaviour on social media. The 13 female and 12 male participants are aged between 16 and 35.
The study results, presented in a recent research article, show many young people refuse to share religious content on social media for various reasons, Synnes says. "They would like to communicate their religious identity but find it difficult in Norway."
The reasons young people give for avoiding religious content on social media are different, but some topics recur. Synnes: "They are afraid of being excluded from the community of friends and being given stereotypical attitudes and characteristics. Christians are particularly afraid that secular friends from the majority population will view them as too conservative."
However, for those who choose to share, it can be about participating in debates and changing negative views on being religious.
Among the informants in the survey, Muslim boys restricted themselves the most. "They are exposed to a double stigma where the fear of being seen as extremists and terrorists also comes into play", Synnes says. He emphasizes that the young people interviewed are resourceful and well-functioning people in education or working life with good jobs.
According to the researcher, none of the informants is highly religious. "We are not talking about controversial or conflict-creating topics such as abortion or homosexuality, but religion in general. Among other things, it is about not being able to share Bible verses or Koranic verses as they could imagine."
Another survey conducted by KIFO, the Department of Church, Religion and Philosophy Research, in 2019 found that religious activities on the CV reduced the chances of being called for a job interview. It applied to both Muslim and Christian activities.
The fear of fewer job opportunities was also one of the reasons Synnes and Trysnes received from the young people to avoid showing their faith online. "It is worrying that it is like that. One of the informants referred to it as a career suicide if he expressed something religious on social media.
These are strong words, says Synnes. "It is fundamentally problematic in a democratic society that freedom of expression is so narrow. I am afraid of the consequences this will have for religious minorities' entry into working life, especially in work environments that are already very homogeneous."