Social Media and Religiosity in the United Arab Emirates

By: Justin Thomas  

Large datasets associated with Internet search engines and social media platforms are increasingly being used to study psychological variables. Over the past decade big data, as it has become known, has been used to explore a diverse range of topics. Few studies, however, have examined religiosity (religious belief, commitment and devotion), particularly Islamic religiosity in the Arab world. This study explored religiosity in the United Arab Emirates using data extracted from Twitter, a popular social media platform. The data comprised 152 million Twitter messages, spanning April 1st to September 30th, 2016. Bilingual search algorithms were employed to explore the temporal patterns of religiosity expressed within the dataset. The study also explored patterns in the usage of obscenity (offensive language), hypothesising a negative relationship with religious sentiment. Religiosity followed hypothesised temporal patterns and was also inversely correlated with obscenity. There were differences observed between languages (Arabic vs English) and gender, with males, surprisingly, expressing greater religiosity than females. This research contributes to the nascent study of religiosity through social media.

Religion, Social Media
Religious Community and Socialization
Virtual Lightning Talk

Justin Thomas

Associate Professor, Psychology, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates