Youth use technology to connect to religion, others
Spending a lot of time online is a reality for many teens and young adults, and increasingly some of that time is being used to connect to religion and spirituality.
With all the time youth spend on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, among others, there isn't always a lot of time left for face to face interaction.
Students are a prime example of young people pressed for time, and Huzaifa Sial says "All of the work, all of the assignments, and then once you're socializing too has now become online."
Sial is a member of the Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) Muslim Students' Association.
He's among the growing population of young people using the communication tool they know best, the Internet, to stay connected with their faith.
That includes a promotional YouTube video made jointly by the University of Waterloo (UW) and WLU Muslim Student Associations.
The video is a parody of a viral video that has over 26 million views. It can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWb8KYSB_U4 and is designed to help bring Muslim students together.
Hussain Sharif is with the UW Muslim Students' Association, he says "I think it's really important because some people…coming into university from the start they need to find that social support for themselves."
In addition to bringing students together, the association also hopes the online presence will help keep religion top of mind for members.
At the Kitchener Baptist Church the goal with youth is similar. Assistant Pastor Jerry Burns says "It's no secret that teenagers are on the Internet today and so we are going where teenagers spend the time."
The church has a blog directed at young people with the goal of keeping them engaged.
Burns says "We want to make resources available for teenagers, to help them, so that they can learn bible truth."
Lorne Dawson, sociologist of religion at UW, says technology has become part of the identity of young people.
"If religion doesn't get into the electronic environment, it won't have substance, it won't be real for young people."
And the results of using technology to bring young people together may actually be much more profound, helping youth be inspired by, and stay connected to, their spirituality.
Sial says "So when we get together and create our own community, it kind of revitalizes the thought of religion."
Coming up in part three: How critics are using the Internet and what that means for the future of organized religion.