In recent years, media theorists stress macroscopic relations between digital communications and religion, through the framing of mediatization theory. In these discussions, media is conceptualized as a social institution, which influences religious establishments and discourse. Mediatization scholars have emphasized the transmission of meanings and outreach to individuals, and the religious-social shaping of technology. Less attention has been devoted to the mediatization of the religious community and identity. Accordingly, we asked how members of bounded religious communities negotiate and perform their identity via public social media. This study focuses on public performances of the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, rhetorically and symbolically expressed in groups operating over WhatsApp, a mobile instant messaging and social media platform. While a systematic study of instant messaging has yet to be conducted on insular-religious communities, this study draws upon an extensive exploration of over 2000 posts and 20 interviews conducted between 2016–2019. The findings uncover how, through mediatization, members work towards reconstructing the holy community online, yet renegotiate enclave boundaries. The findings illuminate a democratizing impact of mediatization as growing masses of ultra-Orthodox participants are given a voice, restructure power relations and modify fundamentalist proclivities towards this-worldly activity, to influence society beyond the enclave’s online and offline boundaries.
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