Is All Influence Negative?
Adults these days. I tell ya. We’re just so insistent that you’re different than we once were.
You have your phones and your games. You’re snapping. And, doing whatever you do on TikTok. To the point you’ve got all the adults concerned about influence.
We just love to roll our eyes when we talk about Influencers. Even indignant about the notion that anyone can make money by influencing people to eat, travel, and shop.
But, here’s the thing. We adults were influenced too. And, our parents were just as worried.
I’m old enough to have grown up buying records. At one point, adults were all freaked out about the idea that records contained subliminal messages embedded into the grooves. You could even hear the messages. If you just played the record backwards.
Or, then there was a time when our Saturday morning cartoons were under attack. Roadrunner was too violent. We were being influenced. Led to believe we could survive a fall from a giant cliff. Or that we’d bounce back after being crushed by a giant boulder.
So, we adults are a bit disingenuous when we claim that everything is so different than it was. Sure, some things are different. But, at the core. It’s exactly the same.
All adults, across every generation, have worried about influence.
And, now that influence can happen 24/7, everywhere you look, we’re talking as if all influence is negative. Which is just not true. Influence is actually important. Very important. Here’s why.
There’s very, very little, if anything, in our world that is completely original. Everything that’s invented, created, said, or sung is actually a compilation of many things coming together in the mind of the inventor, creator, speaker or singer.
Everyone is influenced. No one’s a true original.
Now, we may seem original. That’s absolutely possible. In fact, you’ll want your ideas and thoughts to be inventive. To be different. Unusual. But, we cannot forget that to be unique is to be influenced. It’s just that simple.
We have to allow for a variety of inputs.
Let’s say you’re a gamer. If you’re remotely serious, then you likely watch other people play - either in person or on YouTube. As normal as it seems to you, its purpose is completely lost upon nearly every adult. They just don’t get it.
But, you know that in order to elevate your own play, it’s essential. It helps you see things from other perspectives. It helps you understand finer strategic points you might have missed. You need that influence in order to grow and develop your own thinking.
Or, let’s say you like to draw. You can spend hours with a pencil and a few sheets of paper. Aside from repeated effort at mastering the skill, you need influence. Which comes from anywhere really. Music, movies, even other forms of art. It’s all getting mixed together in your mind. You’re using it to shape your next creation.
So, influence is essential. And, here’s the great thing about the 21st Century. The point that many adults miss. Your source of influence is not limited to your own school. Or music on the radio. Or pictures in a magazine. Like it had been for today’s adults.
You digital natives have the ability to connect with people from around the world. You can let other people’s skills, perspectives, and experiences expand and grow your own.
Is it possible to have negative influences? Absolutely. And, from that aspect, adults are right to worry. At least a little.
So, here’s the thing. As you seek out influencers, you have to use your critical thinking skills. You have to evaluate the accuracy and integrity of the influencer. Even I’ve made mistakes. I’ve followed someone for a few weeks or months, only to later realize that they weren’t living up to the things they claimed were important.
I’ve even unfollowed people, thinking they were going to lead me astray. Only to later discover that I overreacted to one or two posts. After more reflection, I realized that it was my own thinking that needed to be more considerate.
Influence is completely normal and okay. It’s actually healthy to seek out influence. There’s no reason for us to feel badly about it. But, it is important that we work at curating our feed of influencers. It is important that we fact check things that seem untrue. And, that we double check our own thinking.
Why does it matter? Because the world has big problems that your generation will need to solve. Problems that will only be solved with bold, creative, globally collaborative ideas.
It won’t matter if you’re arguing in court, writing code, or fixing cars. You’ll be part of the solving of problems.
You can prepare yourself today through influence. Expand your circle of influence. Allow your mind to take in ideas from a variety of people and places.
One day, it will be your iteration of others’ work that will lead to something new, something different, something that takes the next step toward a solution.
There’s never been a greater time for influence. Both in opportunity and need. So, don’t be afraid of influence. Just be smart about it.