What you need to know
TikTok is the fastest-growing social media platform to date. It has more than 25 per cent of the global population (2 billion users). Sixty per cent of its user base is under 30.
Due to its meteoric rise TikTok has received significant attention from the media, politicians and tech experts.
But what do we need to know about this app, its business model and potential dangers? As Christians and as Canadians, do we need to be worried?
• The platform
Before TikTok most social media platforms were based around social connections. We would follow our friends on apps likes of Facebook and Instagram, our friends would follow us and we would share information. Over time chronological posts were replaced by what content was proving to be engaging in the algorithm, but the concept was seeing content from those we chose to follow and interacting using likes and comments.
TikTok’s approach is entirely different, focused on discovery of new content from people or brands you may not know but that TikTok estimates you would like to see, purely for your entertainment and education. We can see how successful they are at keeping people on their app because now other platforms are trying to play catchup and adapt to the discovery approach.
TikTok is so consuming because the For You page is entirely centred around you, and it learns more each time you use it about what you might want to see based on the billions of other content views and users that TikTok tracks in a very sophisticated way.
• The opportunity
The opportunity here for the Church is intriguing. People who did not search for your content and have no obvious interest in Jesus will be presented with it. So Christians should be making content that encourages, teaches and inspires people with the Good News. If the content is entertaining or valuable to the first few viewers who see it, more people will be shown this content.
In theory anyone’s content can reach thousands to millions to even billions. (Yes, a few TikToks have billions of views.) People interested in truth, hope, love and meaning are finding Christian TikTokers, and there are more and more stories of genuine life change happening through the platform.
• The caution
Many Christians will naturally be cautious as we don’t want to be controlled by any kind of addiction, and TikTok is designed to be addictive. Scripture tells us to meditate on God’s Word day and night, and let it be the compass for our lives. We spend an alarming amount of hours being formed in our world view by these tiny glowing screens.
It’s also inevitable that TikTok will show us things that might be harmful or opposed to Christian beliefs. Whether it’s softcore porn, get rich quick schemes based on fraud or greed, a focus on self and appearance – whatever our vulnerabilities – social media algorithms will suggest them to us and keep us from the encouragement in Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things."
TikTok is so consuming because the For You page is entirely centred around you.
Lastly, you may be hearing about government concerns about TikTok and security. TikTok is a Chinese-owned platform, and there are serious concerns being raised about if the company is sharing users’ private data with the Chinese government.
Governments around the world including in Canada are mandating their employees remove TikTok from their work devices for security precautions. Cybersecurity experts are saying users should assume any information TikTok has about their personal details, chats, biodata, locations and more might be shared outside the company.
But TikTok has sought to distance itself from the Chinese government while striving for global appeal. It recently hired former Walt Disney executive Kevin Mayer to be its CEO. The app has also never been available in China.
Frankly, in a world of hyper-connectivity, our data is not difficult to find for nefarious purposes with or without the help of TikTok. Christians would be wise to remember if you are not paying for the product, you are the product. Digital tools make great servants, but don’t let them be your master.
is a podcaster, TV host and communications consultant in Toronto. Find more of these columns at