Smartphone Religious Networking: Negotiating Contested Identities within a Pious Community over WhatsApp

Nakhi Mishol-Shauli, Oren Golan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Online social networks can be considered harbingers of modernity and are claimed to encourage individualization in religious practices. Nevertheless, religious minority groups, including reclusive communities, legitimize their use for religious and communal purposes. Accordingly, social networks are emerging as dynamic third spaces of identity reflections on key issues of lived religion. This study examined how members of a religious group negotiate their identity over online social networks. Accordingly, we conducted a content analysis of 70 ultra-Orthodox Jewish public (Haredi) WhatsApp groups and 40 semi-structured interviews with participants. Findings revealed three primary facets of identity performance: communal affinity; proclaimed conformism and practiced agency; and contesting dogmatism and pragmatism. Through these facets, a new social identity is crystallized within the Haredi sector in Israel. Thus, the secluded spaces of WhatsApp groups enable a marginalized grassroots religious public to promote incremental social change without shattering communal boundaries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1034
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • Jewish ultra-Orthodox
  • WhatsApp
  • identity construction
  • messaging apps
  • religion online
  • social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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