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Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

When Religion Meets Instagram: The Challenges Faced By Instagram Religion Influencers

Religious Instagram influencers face a unique set of challenges as they share their faith on the popular social media platform.

With altruism being a central tenant in most religions, Instagram seems like an unlikely place to be spreading one's religious views. It might even be the last place that a devout religious person should be creating awareness for their faith, a platform which has been labelled the most narcissistic social media platform. However this is not the case with many devout religious individuals who had established great presences on the social media site. Big names from this emerging breed of influencers include Kirby Minnick, Emma Mae Jenkins, Daniel Bortz and Elena Nikolova.
The most obvious reason for this growing trend of religion instagrammers is the opportunity to share their religious message on a massive scale. With one billion monthly active users, Instagram is the largest platform for individuals to conveniently spread the messages of their faith, as well as discipline people from a far distance.
“A couple of hundred years ago a Rabbi would have to get on a horse and travel for weeks if he wanted to impart his message with a thousand people — and even then, only Jewish people would hear him. But now I can spread the word in a matter of minutes, and who knows who might listen. I think that’s pretty cool.” said Daniel Bortz, whose Instagram account the ‘Millennial Rabbi’ boasts 25.5 thousand followers, in a BBC article.
Like their secular instagram influencer counterparts, most of these individuals have been able to leverage their Instagram following to engage in other profitable ventures. These influencers receive sponsorships and book deals due to their popularity.
Today’s religious instagrammers and other Instagram influencers have similar business opportunities through their popularity on Instagram. However, there are some unique challenges faced by the former that make their place on the social media site complicated.
Firstly, by making their support of certain religious doctrines known, religion instagrammers may be perceived as self-righteous or anti-progressive and can receive a lot of criticism as a result. For example, this kind of influencer could be the object of backlash for their vocal support of doctrines of their faith that disapprove of movements such as LGBTQ and feminist activism. This type of mass rebuke can cause some religion instagrammers to try to appeal to more followers at the expense of compromising their own religious doctrines.
“There are some Christian influencers I stopped following because they were trying to make their religion look good and they water down the foundational aspects of their religion. For example, with the gospel in Christianity, some instagrammers, because they desire more followers or likes, would alter the gospel and not say the full truth,” commented Veronica Wambura, Class of 2021.
Moreover, concerns have arisen over whether religion instagrammers are qualified to give advice on something as important as religion. This concern stems from the fact that most religion instagrammers are usually just individuals passionate about their religions; they have received no formal training in their faith. This concern seems to affect even the religious instagrammers themselves, as Daniel Bortz shared with BBC. “I’d travelled to Israel and been rabbinically ordained, so it wasn’t a lie — but I don’t have a degree in psychology and I’m not a licensed therapist. So who am I to be imparting advice or to be suggesting I have words of wisdom to share?” he said.
Despite this concern, Bortz shared with BBC that he still continues to give such advice because he was convinced that he does have something to offer. Christian influencer Ashley Brown, with a followership of 25.3 thousand people on Instagram, also agrees with the latter view “… I do believe that the only qualification I need to spread this message is from God.” She reported in the same article.
“Though promoting religion on social media may be helpful, by leading people to know about God, or introducing people to your faith. However, there is the downside of actually leading people astray and not telling them what true Christianity is because of its stark truths. A Christian may avoid sharing these to evade persecution,” said Kristos Baffour, Class of 2021 as he shared his perspective on the issue as related to Christian instagrammers.
Other types of Instagram influencers typically contribute to a comparison trap by representing themselves as being more attractive or having better clothes and traveling experiences than their followers. Likewise, religion influencers can portray themselves on Instagram as individuals who have a perfect devotion to their religions or understanding of their religions’ stipulations. Followers are thus led to compare their levels of spirituality or religious devotion with those of the influencers. It could be argued that the comparison trap may be even more consequential in this case because followers are comparing something that is even more crucial to their identity than beauty or material possessions and experiences.
The 21st century has seen the merging of two seemingly antithetical aspects of human existence, religion and social media. This merging is spearheaded by none other than millennial religious instagrammers who have established global religious movements in short periods of time. Their niche may be fraught with peculiar complications, but whether these challenges should overshadow the huge opportunity religion influencers have through Instagram is yet to be ascertained.
Chisom Ezeifemeelu is a staff writer. Email her at
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