I have a visceral dislike for the word Influencer. Every time I login to my social media accounts my feeds seem to be filled with people claiming to be or looking to be influencers. Social media influencers – the great buzz phrase of our time.
I must admit though that I hadn’t thought too deeply about the concept until a Facebook friend Vanessa Manunga started asking me questions about it as part of her dissertation for her honours degree in Media Production Management. You should check her stuff out on Facebook. She’s going places.
The topic got me thinking about what I should be asking myself about.
The questions I need to ask myself are:
- Why is my gut reaction to people wanting to be social media Influencers so negative
- Is my prejudice affecting my objectivity?
I suppose for me the term Influencer is a modern-day substitute for the word Leader and I am always worried about people that WANT to be Leaders. I guess I’m worried it is the status symbol of being a leader/Influencer that people are attracted to as opposed to the actual responsibility genuine leadership entails and requires.
When people say they want to change the world for the better – I always ask myself do they fully understand the size of their own egos to say such a thing?.
But again, I have no scientific research to back up my feeling that Leaders who want to be Leaders are far more dangerous and less desirable than Leaders who are, shall we say a lot more reluctant about the whole enterprise.
The gold standard for me in Leadership or for that matter Influence are 3 people and I think it is because of how I view these 3 people that I have such a negative disposition towards social media influencers. As such it is me that needs to change and give social media influencers a break.
The 3 are:
- Mother Theresa of Calcutta
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Nelson Mandela
I don’t think it was a goal of any of these 3 people ‘To be a Leader’ or to influence the millions and millions of people that they influenced. Now what makes me laugh is that they are often pointed to (and rightly so) in Leadership manuals or the latest self-help books as being people of great Leadership ability and influence – yet I have not read once in any publication – a satisfactory explanation of the defining characteristic of their Leadership and Influence. Not that the authors don’t know why but rather the answer isn’t going to help get them to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list.
I think the defining characteristic of all three is a very simple and rare one – They had the courage of their convictions in the face of great adversity. It was not their ability to get people to follow them that set them apart – rather it was their courage to walk alone when the road was long, the journey uncertain and most certainly no guarantee of a band of followers on the path that lay ahead.
People reacted to the authenticity of their effort, courage and humanity and eventually many responded. I say eventually because the likes of Nelson Mandela spent many a long night in Jail before anyone gave a fuck about who he was or what he was trying to stand for.
The problem with this type of path to success, if success is the right word, is this – It is a very low shot of global appeal. However the goal is not to influence people for influence’s sake. These are reluctant heroes addressing real problems.
I write about Mixed Martial Arts a lot – and if I’m completely honest it is because I am attracted to the type of people who follow it rather than being an expert in any of the different disciplines. They are generally a Raw, raucous gang and aren’t offended by the odd Fuck or shit that I throw into my writing for flavour.
One thing I notice with some of the MMA fighters is the concept of Humbleness. How they consider it an important trait to have. Thinking humble. Reminding themselves to be humble. It makes me smile when I hear some of them and see the amount of energy they are consuming on the subject.
I am not humble, but as the story goes, at least I know a humble guy. One day we were chatting and he said something, I can’t remember what – and I said
‘Jesus your one of the humblest fuckers I’ve ever met’
I can’t remember what he said in response but I’ll never forget the look on his face – a vacant smile that told me he hadn’t the first fucking clue what I was talking about. Then it hit me, humility isn’t a thought in your head or a way of thinking – it’s a state of being. If you’re not humble – do like I do – hang around occasionally with someone who is – it tends to rub off on you.
I suppose I tie humbleness and leadership together because I think their connected although I’m not quite sure how or why. I think it maybe has something to do with the authenticity of being. Anyway enough of that.
Finally, to any would be social media phenom – if you JUST want to make a shit tonne of money and take selfies all day – at least have the decency to admit it to yourself on some level – if not your audience. There is nothing wrong with looking good and selling your image or your lifestyle. Just don’t try and convince me of anything else. I definitely won’t look as good as you in those skinny jeans or my business won’t be turning over 7 figures in 6 months.
Now on the other hand, If you want to find a true influencer or to be a true influencer – look around you. I bet they are very close by. In your family, one of your friends, a teacher, a coach or some random guy who shared a bus ride with you. I bet they take selfies as part of a group if they take them at all.
I see these people most days around me and it restores my faith in humanity every time I catch a glimpse of them.
One of the questions I was asked was – as a blogger did I see myself as an Influencer. I don’t. But it then does beg the question – Why Blog if not to influence?
I think I like to write about the glimpses of humanity we don’t shine a light on. The unnoticed kindness, the overlooked badness or inexplicable madness, the humour of the ordinary – The world as it is and not as I think it should be –
There is a life out there without Snapchat filters, product placements and Google AdWords not many people are writing about it and maybe not many people want to read about it – but I’ll be a busy man seeking it out and sure there is some peace in that.
I leave you with the words of Mahatma Gandhi
Happiness is when what you think,
What you say,
And what you do are in Harmony
It’s a fucker of a trick to pull off isn’t it 🙂