The following comes from an October 19 On Religion blog post:
A storm has been building in the pews for more than a decade, according to new work by the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. A survey found that 92 percent of adults own cellphones and 90 percent carry them most of the time. Nearly half say they rarely turn off these devices and nearly a third said they never turn them off – period.
“Everyone used to know the worship rules and now we don’t.” said Lee Rainie, director of Internet, science and technology research at the Pew Research Center. He is also the co-author of the book “Networked: The New Social Operating System.”
Pew researchers found clear agreement on digital etiquette in two settings – with 5 percent of Americans approving the “use” of cell phones in movie theaters and a mere 4 percent endorsing their use in worship services.
But would that include using a smartphone to discreetly take pictures during baptism rites or choir performances? What if the pastor asked parishioners to tweet questions during a sermon? What if a denomination produced an app to help children understand symbolism in Holy Week rites?
At that point, the rules seem to change. The Pew research, for example, found that 45 percent of those polled said they use their phones to post pictures from public gatherings, while 41 percent share quotes or anecdotes and 38 percent believe it’s acceptable to go online to “get information” related to group activities.
“If the pastor is actually encouraging something, then that seems to make it OK for most people, but maybe not all,” said Rainie, in a telephone interview. “Clearly that is not the same thing as sitting in church checking out your Facebook page.”