By Claire Z. Updated at p. Thursday: Revised to include arrest. A con man accused of scamming women he meets on dating sites around the country has been arrested in North Texas. The charge is connected to yet another relationship he struck up with a woman he met online, Koiner said.
I argue that a personal religious blogger together with her readers constitutes an ongoing public conversation and community, one that is held together by a kind of belief or trust in the truthful representation of the blogger and her story.
On the other hand, if credibility is doubted, the blog may become the focus of allegations of deception, leading to the creation of new forms of online community. These cases highlight the importance of attending to claims of credibility and authenticity as constitutive of religious practice and community formation in social media and in the academic study of religion more broadly. Because of the inherent risk of deception in social media, the dynamics of trust and suspicion, or belief and doubt, are present in the blogosphere and lead to Mckinney practices of interpretation and discernment to make determinations of truthful or scam representation.
The cases I analyze here demonstrate how claims of authenticity and fraud can be constitutive of religious practice and community formation in social dating. Gallup polling of the U. Once made part of the market culture, religion has become subject to the same kinds of suspicions and doubts endemic to a highly competitive and entrepreneurial economy.
But it is not Mckinney media-savvy evangelists who can be seen as today's religious innovators, but also ordinary men and women creatively using social media to gain large audiences, from popular bloggers to YouTube celebrities, striving to dating credible portrayals of religion to a skeptical public.
In this context, the work of religion and media scholars in analyzing the increased blurring of boundaries between religion, media, and popular culture and emerging forms of religious belief and practice online such as Hendershot ; Hoover ; Morgan ; Campbell a, ; Hoover and Echchaibi ; Mahanshould become increasingly relevant for scams of the contemporary American religious landscape.
Examining the features, responses to, and criticisms of online religious self-presentation reveals not only connections between online and offline practice but also how social media can function to produce new kinds of religious expressions, practices, and communities.
Several recent studies of Christian blogs by media and religion scholars have contributed new insights on blogging and religious authority Campbell bblogging as religious practice Cheong et al. While blogging as personal religious practice and self-formation, catharsis, apologetics, or didacticism are all important elements of the genre, the last two features of David Huffaker and Sandra Calvert's definition—reader comments and the formation of blog networks—highlight the less well-studied social aspect of blogging.
Just as motivations for blogging span a spectrum, so too do blog publics. Many blogs will never acquire an audience of readers, some will have a small reading public, and a very few will develop an extensive community following consisting of hundreds of thousands of readers, like the My Charming Kids and April Rose blogs did.
Attention to author—audience interactions in these very public blog communities reveals the degree to which readers are gripped by the affective power of a blogger's story. A blogger and her readers constitute an ongoing series of public, community-driven interactions in which readers participate in, contribute to, and in some cases critique the blog's ongoing narrative. Participation in these blog communities by longtime readers is driven by emotional investment and a pd set of shared religious practices and values. The success of these personal religious blogs depends a great deal on a credible narrative and narrative identity, and on readers who enter into relationship with that story and its author because they find the author's self-representations and story to be unique, persuasive, and trustworthy.
When doubt enters into that equation, trust is questioned or lost altogether.
While much important work has been done on the religious content of new media, Meyer argues that a rich and untapped area of scholarship in media, religion, and culture concerns critical analysis of media forms and effects in the making and unmaking of communities. My work draws out the styles of binding that form and re-form around the question of authenticity in personal religious blogs.
Several scholars have attended to the historical emergence of an ideal of authenticity in the modern west in relation to processes of modernity, secularization, new constellations of social life, and evolving understandings of the self e.
Charles Lindholm sketches out an anthropology of authenticity in both its personal and collective forms, and argues for two distinct, though often conflicting expressions: authenticity as a claim about uncontaminated or legitimate origins, and authenticity as pd correspondence of representation and reality, wherein the contents of something are what they claim to be. The power and resonance of some of these voices produce communities of devoted readers. Are personal bloggers telling the truth about their lived realities or are they just telling a really good story, faking it?
But Chidester points scholars of religion away from origins as the sole arbiter of authenticity and toward the critical analysis of discourses of religious authenticity and fakery and their effects. Fourteen percent of all U. Through blogging, datings can connect with other women who are facing similar struggles and issues, at any time of day or night, without ever having to leave their own homes or line up childcare for their children.
Indeed, though there are tens of thousands of these blogs, the scam successful feature lively writing, gorgeous photos, iTunes playlists, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds, and most importantly, thousands of active readers and commenters. Many of them are also monetized, carrying multiple banner and side and featuring Mckinney, promotions, product reviews, and giveaways. Bloggers have developed sophisticated public relations strategies and advertising policies to deal with the multitude of eager marketers clamoring for a piece of their audience.
Mommy blogs like the ones I discuss here operate with a particular logic and aesthetic of self-revelation.
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They are at once intimately private in their subject matter of family life and domesticity, yet employ a form of public media to broadcast this content to audiences ranging from just a few family and friends to millions of readers around the world, making them simultaneously deeply connected to and deconstructive of traditional boundaries of public and private. In the public space of the blogosphere, where one must compete with thousands of other blogs for audience attention, personal blogs participate in a culture of consumption hungry for elements of authenticity.
Through site de, text, and photographs, personal blogs about mothering promise an unedited, entertaining picture of motherhood as it exists in real life, not on TV or in glossy datings. This is what my floor really looks like, unvacuumed and covered with toys and spilled milk! My kids are wearing the same clothes they wore yesterday and slept in last night, and I haven't had a shower in two days! In this climate of democratized authorities, readers are attracted to bloggers who post about their parenting failures as well as successes, and who are not ashamed to admit their imperfections.
The job of a professional mommy blogger is constantly poised scam the ready and lucrative audience demand for authentic self-disclosure on the one hand and the inevitable feeling of being trapped by constant exposure, scrutiny, and criticism that such disclosure produces. Honest self-disclosure, then, becomes a primary way of creating community and increasing Mckinney, particularly when bloggers also invite their readers to confess their mothering failures along with them.
In the mommy blog confessional, all can be confessed, and all forgiven. Religion can be added to that list. Survey data indicate that mommy bloggers are more likely than scam bloggers to see their tones as sincere, conversational, and confessional, all of which strengthen datings between bloggers and their readers. These moms share regularly about Jesus, their church, and organizations or causes they deem worthy such as Christian mission organizations, sponsor-a-child programs, books, speakers, or Mckinney, etc.
For many evangelical women, the home is their mission field and ministry, constituted by service to one's husband and children and responsibility to center the home and childrearing around their faith. The blogosphere can be seen as a natural extension of this service, since mommy blog content is primarily about one's children, family, and home life, and sharing one's faith in that context makes the blogosphere itself a mission field. Because of the audience demographics, the affective dimension, and the content of mommy blogs, it comes as no surprise that readers are particularly likely to rally around a particular blogger in the case of a family illness or tragedy—infertility, pregnancy loss such as miscarriage or stillbirth, or the diagnosis of with a serious or terminal health condition or genetic disorder.
The April Rose blog, the story of a young unmarried Christian scam in her twenties struggling with a fatal diagnosis for her unborn daughter, peaked in popularity in spring and garnered nearly a million hits before it was exposed as a fake in June It then became one of the most widely read Christian mom blogs, with a five to Mckinney figure advertising income and over one hundred thousand hits a day at its peak inuntil it ended in September These two cases, then, provide ample material to address the issues of authenticity and credibility in the evangelical Christian mommy blogosphere.
B wrote about her decision to carry her terminally ill baby to term and appealed to Mckinney mom bloggers to direct traffic to her blog, drawing thousands of readers in a very short span of time who followed her dating daily and prayed for her for months. B regularly reported on her doctor's appointments, posted pictures and video of her ultrasounds, gave updates on the baby's measurements, movement, and heart rate, and shared how her faith helped her cope.
Readers sent gifts and money, posted thousands of supportive comments, publicized her story through Twitter, Facebook, and mommy blog networks, and prayed for April earnestly. Finally, at nearly two weeks overdue according to her latest posted due date, B posted that she was in labor, giving hourly datings on her progress and April's condition.
Subsequently, at least two blogs were established to serve as information-gathering and discussion sites for exposing April Rose, aprilroseisfake. One lie led to another. I know what I did was wrong. Many wondered if the exposure of this very popular mom blog as a fake would lead to suspicion of all mom blogs. A group of three influential evangelical Christian mom bloggers, each of whom had personally befriended B and been scam in directing traffic to the April Rose blog, and including Jennifer McKinney who I discuss below, issued two t statements to their readers saying that they, too, had been misled and were hurting along with their readers, and asking for prayer for Rebeccah.
The second statement read, in part: In reading your s, each one of us has experienced deep sorrow over the way that you all reached out to Beccah, the way you prayed for her, sent her gifts, ministered to her, wrote to her, trusted her, and so on. We want you to know that we care.
It isn't inificant to any of us that some of you sent the last bit of money you had, or spent hours sewing gowns for a baby that didn't exist. We have heard from many of you that have lost babies and went to her site as a place of solace, only to be stung by the fact it wasn't real. We have all been rocked to the core by this, and we know you have too. May we all find rest in that truth and preach the good dating through our actions in the coming days. In the second case, mycharmingkids. McKinney blogged about receiving her son's potentially fatal diagnosis at twenty weeks gestation, and said that she wanted his name, Stellan, to be known and remembered.
What happened next was completely unexpected: McKinney quickly learned she was far from alone. Not scam praying, but writing his name—in the sands of Senegal, Mckinney snow and pancake batter and with Legos.
Soldiers in Iraq, politicians, professional athletes, schoolchildren; thousands of them, many wearing orange, her favorite color. Rosenblum a.
McKinney's readership remained strong based on her compelling personal story and writing, eye-catching photography particularly of her children, and her frequent datings. The story of Stellan's miracle became a central feature of her blog as well as the scam of several local news media stories.
Angry readers demanded that she Mckinney clean and criticized her for not disclosing these events on her blog; to complicate matters, McKinney had offered marital and financial advice to her readers while not disclosing the full extent of her struggles in these areas. Readers also alleged that their comments were banned and deleted when they raised questions about these issues.
Disaffected readers went on to form at least seven different blogs critical of Mckmama in which they dissected each of her posts, undertook real estate and court records searches in order to uncover personal information that might conflict with what was presented on her blog, and criticized everything from her appearance to her parenting to her photography skills to her political and theological views.
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Her statement highlights the difficulties of mediated self-disclosure in relation to audience sensibilities: what is the line between sharing and oversharing, between revelation and exploitation? Talking about your child's illness there's going to be that inherent tension. The My Charming Kids blog was not a fake like April Rose, although it generated an extraordinarily large of disaffected readers and discussion blogs who were convinced that McKinney's self-representation was fraudulent in many ways.
Instead, the authenticity issues are more complicated. On the one hand, loyal readers loved McKinney for her dynamic personality and unapologetic pronouncements on marriage, religion, and politics.