Fundamentalism and the search for meaning in digital media among Gen Y and Gen Z
Keywords:Gen Z, Gen Y, Digital Media, Social Media, Religion, Fundamentalism, Terrorism, Counterpropaganda
Religious fundamentalists have a common fear that modernity, digital mass media, and popular culture may corrupt young adults and undermine sacred values and moral codes. However, some young adults do not abandon their religion; conversely, they submit to fundamentalist religious authority and are willing to become martyrs. This paper seeks to provide a theoretical understanding of the relationship between religious fundamentalism and Gen Y and Gen Z’s search for meaning in the digital media ecology. The purpose of this article is to synthesize the theoretical perspectives of religious fundamentalism, imagined communities, sacred values, terror-management-theory and digital media theories to generate new insights on countering online radicalization. However rather than recommending more online counterpropaganda dampening violent extremism targeting communities, this article builds on the view that an integrated approach on digital citizenship, off-line interfaith communication, and religious face-to-face encounters with ‘the other’ to share sacred and secular values in the pedagogical environment will help understand the social reality of ‘the other’ and can offer effective insights to prevent home-grown extremism, social insularity and reduce in-group biases at an early age.
Clyde Anieldath Missier’s work on this article was made possible by contributing, as an external PhD candidate, to Rik Peels’ project EXTREME (Extreme Beliefs: The Epistemology and Ethics of Fundamentalism), which has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant agreement No. 851613) and from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
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