On yet another Friday audience with a tech executive, Pope Francis met with the CEO and co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. The audience is the latest move by Instagram to become the dominant platform for visual communication.
Instagram said that images can “unite people across borders, cultures, and generations,” in a statement ahead of the meeting.
“Today I had the honor of meeting Pope Francis,” Systrom wrote. “It was by far one of the most memorable experiences of my life!”
Owned by Facebook, Instagram has built up teams of curators to boost the social sharing platform’s discovery features. “We believe you can see the world happening in real time through Instagram,” Systrom said. Instagram is attempting to make all major world events, particularly the most significant ones, discoverable and accessible on Instagram.
Systrom gave the pope a curated book of 10 hand-picked Instagram images. It captured images from the Nepalese earthquake, the continuing migration of refugees into Europe from the Middle East, photographs from inside North Korea, climate change in the arctic and from last year’s Baltimore protests.
Images are powerful motivators. If the pope can harness the power of Instagram to promote the papal message, while at the same time limit negative exposure of the Vatican’s dark side, the Papacy will have gained a powerful tool in promoting itself as the moral guide of the world.
And Pope Francis is already developing an Instagram presence. “”After a trial run of several months,” Catholic News Service said, “the Vatican Instagram is set to become one of News.va’s main platforms for social media communication.”
And while he only has a very few followers on Instagram at the moment, his “twitter account is already crushing it on Twitter, beating out U.S. President Obama as the most influential world leader, according to a July Twiplomacy study. His @Pontifex handle boasts 3,048,148 followers, and that’s just on the English-language account.
The Vatican’s Instagram account however is to become the next stage of Vatican activity on social media with “inspiring scenes… objects, or (signs) used as metaphors, or persons sharing with us the joy of being Christians,” said the Vatican’s Instagram developer, José-Miguel Chavarría Múgica. “We are at a very early stage with Instagram. Now we are just exploring different options for all kinds of audiences.”
Though the pope has a lot of catching up to do with many religious leaders, like Joyce Meyers (62,000+ followers), Joel Osteen (nearly 60,000 followers) and Rick Warren (40,000+ followers), he should easily overtake them and become the primary social media “guru.” Perhaps Francis will “take over” social media, particularly Instagram with powerful images that reflect papal intentions for the world.
Social media has world-wide influence and should become a powerful tool in the hands of the Papacy.
“All the world wondered after the beast.” Revelation 13:3