Influencers: Who Have You Crowned with the Power to Influence You?

I had a “down” day recently and it stemmed not from any particular incident nor from a circumstance (although the claustrophobia of being iced indoors didn’t help), but from the INFLUENCE of information-sharing sources such as the local newspaper and social media.

However, in my wise old age of sixty-something I’ve learned that more often than not “down” days are fertile days from which to learn something.  More often than not, the next day has birthed some sort of fruit.

Influencers.  In the 21st century, these are persons with the power to influence many people through media.  These individuals are self-MADE, media-savvy youngsters (many of them) who through a commercial platform and endorsement, glean many thousands of followers through eWOM (electronic word of mouth, i.e. the Internet).  “Buy this product, copy me, and you too can be ‘beautiful,’ ‘successful,’ ‘wealthy,’ ‘happy,’ and anything else you want in life.”

I wonder – if the sample sentence in the first definition of Influencer in, really applies, with the rise in the celebrity of these relatively young media leaders: “The most powerful influencer of beliefs is direct experience.”

When I grew up in the 50s and 60s, my Influencers were my parents and extended family; my teachers & school; my church; and my friends – face-to-face school and neighborhood mates (NOT every person I’ve ever met, run across, or glanced at in passing).  I personally have never been enamored or FOLLOWED celebrities; thinking them actors and only actors, entertainers and only entertainers, sports figures and only sports figures, with personal lives that have no direct bearing on my life.

In becoming independent from our families of birth, in those days we were taught to think for ourselves.  How many parents said, “don’t follow the crowd.”  Or more “creatively,” “If your friend jumps off the cliff, are you going to jump off the cliff?”  Followed by a silent, but thought: “dumbass!”

When I worked on my master’s degree, critical thinking was a big thing in progressive education, and developing skills in same.  When I went on to teach college-level sociology, our in-service workshops more often than not focused on either developing critical thinking skills into curriculum and in our students; or maintaining multicultural sensitivity.

There is nothing scarier to the world than those of us lone rangers who don’t melt into the crowd because we think for ourselves. In 2015 I wrote in another publication:

“Historically, there were individuals who thought for themselves –  invented great new technologies or works of art; created new social systems; composed new music, poems or stories; stepped out from the crowd in business strategies; and they were considered unbalanced, weird, or supernatural, and, were therefore feared, dismissed as irrelevant, or even deemed criminal.  Those individuals stand out in history because there are so few of them.  We risk the comfort of belonging when we think for ourselves.”

I would like to Influence others to be influenced by direct personal experience again: be influenced by internal/self-motivation; soul, spirit, what-have-you; loved ones; work, and life experience.  Let’s let the celebrity-media-influencer-machine follow each other – DON’T JOIN IN, CROWNING THEM WITH THE POWER TO INFLUENCE YOU!

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