When did “influencer” become a dirty word? In fact–when did it become a word period? In a world where anyone can get followers and build a brand…what does it mean to have influence? I read an article on Business of Fashion about Kim Kardashian West, the creme de la creme of influencers, with hundreds of millions of dollars and the ability to generate over 100 million dollars of revenue from the first year of launching a beauty collection. I don’t argue that this is an incredible feat but it makes me wonder….is that what influence is? The ability to generate revenue? The ability to make people want to consume more? (And potentially consume more things they don’t need that are harmful to the earth?) What is the proper way to wield your influence?
What does it actually mean to have influence? True influence is the ability to change the way people think (for the better) and to then be able to convince them to act in a way that matches that shift. It’s easy to make people buy things. But it’s hard to make them believe in something. (And it’s damn hard to make them act on that belief). An example of personal influence in my life is a magazine called “Fashion Revolution” that completely shifted the way I now think and consume when it comes to clothing and fashion. And even more than just shifting my thoughts (e.g. I should be better, I should help save the earth), it actually shifted my behavior (e.g. don’t buy clothes but if you have to buy something, buy it thrifted, or borrow from a friend, or try to make it yourself).
I started looking through “influential” women — both in history and currently. The lists are deeply interesting. The most influential women in history have been humanitarians, artists (e.g. writers or musicians or actresses), and activists (e.g. politicians, advocates for others, etc.). I like this list. Today the list of powerful and influential women skews towards businesswomen, but again, most of these women are also activists and humanitarians. I think that says a lot about what true influence is. It’s typically wielded by those trying to fight for the underrepresented, those trying to fight for peace, those trying to find truth. (Other side note–I originally just googled most influential people but it was pissing me off that there was only like two women on this list so I tailored my search a little bit :))
The dictionary definition of influence is, “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others” but as I was reading about influence I stumbled upon this astrological definition of influence: “the radiation of an ethereal fluid from the stars, regarded as affecting human actions and destinies”. I like that picture of influence in my head—this starry magical fluid that comes in and changes your destiny. And I hope that’s the kind of influence I can exert in my life — the kind of magical force that makes my friends and family (and maybe someday strangers also) act and behave in a way that errs on the side of humanity and making the world a better place in whatever way, shape, or form that we can.
Food for thought this morning as I was waiting to board my flight. What do you guys think?? Is “influencer” a dirty word or can it be a powerful way to express yourself and your ideas? Tell me your thoughts!