We gave Elliot (our oldest child) the option to start using social media on his 16th Birthday. To our surprise, however, he stayed away from platforms like Instagram and Snapchat for more than two years. We actually encouraged him to test the waters, knowing that it’s an important part of college life. We didn’t want him to jump from completely-uninitiated to completely-inundated overnight. He said he just didn’t want to deal with the “drama.” And honestly, I couldn’t blame him.
A few weeks after his 18th Birthday, finally, Elliot decided to take his first tentative step into the world of social media. He set up a TikTok account. It was an unfamiliar medium for me. Still, I eventually decided to join him in setting up an account of my own. Partly so I could play the role of “Soccer Dad,” providing instant views and likes with every new post by my kid. But also partly so I could better understand and enter Elliot’s world — and the world of other college students with whom I so regularly interact.
I like the idea of trying to gain at least some fluency in as many different cultural spheres as possible.
This was important to me even before social media became such a big part of our lives. I learned to speak at least a couple of phrases in English, Dutch, French, Greek, German, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Swedish, Japanese, Italian, Polish, and Russian. Just because it was a fun way to make human connections. I’ve also learned a little about online gaming, fixed-gear bicycles, squatting rights, English Premier League soccer, and musical theater for a lot of the same reasons. They may never become my go-to sources of personal entertainment or conversation. But they’re nice ways to develop relationships with people. Over the past few years, I’ve picked up a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Strava — to name just a few. Aside from a couple of those platforms, they’ve always felt slightly foreign. But not to the point of alienation.
TikTok took a longer period of adjustment than I expected. Still, I started to get a feel for things after I set up my account. It was fun to have Elliot teach me some of the basics. I’ve observed that it’s a very performance-oriented platform. Almost all dances, memes, or jokes (Elliot sticks steadfastly to the joking side of TikTok). I still don’t understand a lot of what happens on TikTok, but I recognize performance when I see it. I know that people who are performing want to be seen and appreciated. So I didn’t feel bad about being a pure observer for over a month.
This week, however, I started posting content on my account. Consequently, you’ll now find a link to the right, in case you want to establish contact on that platform. I’m playing with using TikTok in a counter-cultural way. Elliot insists that it will be a very dull, quiet corner of the TikTok universe — and he’s probably right — but I think it’s a worthwhile experiment, in any event.
Instead of recording my own performances or directly reacting to the performances of others, I’m focusing on the opposite of performance. I’m focusing on rest and reassurance in the work that God has already done.
I only want to post to TikTok after I’ve spent time out in Creation. It feels important for me to start from a place of worship, practicing the presence of God in the beauty of nature. I try to frame my video recordings in such a way that nothing man-made is visible. I record only natural sound. And then I either let the environment inspire me to remember a certain section of the Bible, or I simply study the Bible and share from what’s fresh in the Word that day. I copy the biblical text and paste it into the caption. I hash-tag the chapter of the Bible in which the text was found and the natural location in which I recorded the video and audio. And that’s it.
I hope that it will lead me to seek God more meaningfully (and I’m happy to report that so far, this has totally been the case). I’d be excited if my TikTok account also sparked others to do the same. But even if it doesn’t, I’m having fun learning this language and making connections between people and God, however I can.