Insta-Snap-Tok theology. Teenagers love it! If you do the math, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok add up to a whopping 88% of teenage social media use. Apparently, old people are still on Twitter and Facebook.
So, who manages these popular platforms? Meta/Facebook owns Instagram. Snapchat is owned by its creators, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company accused of sharing its data collection with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Let’s examine them.
Out of Instagram’s one billion monthly active users, 95 million photos are uploaded every day. Instagram is all about pictures—well actually, it’s all about transforming phone snapshots into professional looking ones. Pick a filter and tweak the color balance, and poof! Remove those ugly eye bags and wrinkles and reshape yourself into a thinner, more beautiful you. No wonder depression, appearance anxiety, and body dissatisfaction are all associated with Instagram use.
TikTok also has one billion monthly active users. On average, kids between 4-15 years old watch catchy lip-sync and dance videos for an hour and a half each day. But just so you’re aware, TikTok is known for its crude content and profanity. No one can use TikTok without being exposed to scantily clad bodies shaking their booty.
Only a half a million people send disappearing messages and photos on Snapchat’s camera each month. Where do all the posts go? Is anything truly deleted? Nevertheless, Snapchat offers several fun games, like Bitmoji Party. And best of all, you can keep track of who you talk to the most.
What is Insta-Snap-Tok theology
Instagram’s theology aims “to capture and share the world’s moments” so that one billion people will “feel closer to anyone they care about.” Think about that. If Jesus posted on Instagram (go with me here), he would have a purpose: to show the world a complete picture of his Father (cf. John 1:18; 17:25-26). Perhaps a closeup of his mom at the wedding reception or a pic of the little boy who gave up his lunch box would suffice. Let us share life’s moments in a way that capture God’s heart, so people feel closer to the Lord.
Snapchat’s theology empowers “people to express themselves, live in the moment, and have fun together” for ten seconds and then it disappears. Think about that. If Jesus used Snapchat (go with me here), he would likely tell parables about the kingdom of God so that people could flourish—not for ten seconds, but all day, every day, now and forevermore (cf. Matt 13:11-12, 16). Let us encourage people to see God’s face in their stories.
TikTok’s theology is simple: “inspire creativity and bring joy.” Videos that go viral are usually funny or involve a remarkable skill. But TikTok also has a dark underbelly. Think about that. If Jesus used TikTok (go with me here), he would be the light in the darkness so that people would experience the joy of “the light of life” (John 8:12; Ps 97:11). Let us be a light that inspires creativity and joy in a world of digital darkness.
You may say, “I’m too old to keep up with all this fancy technology.” Well, you’re never too old to have conversations about digital media theology with your children and grandchildren. They’d probably love that!