Do you remember the old VHS videotapes? I remember watching recorded movies and fast-forwarding through the ads. Better still, remember when we cut out the ads by stopping the recording. However, every now and again the first bit of the movie after the ad break was missed because someone forgot to press record!! Disaster!
How times have changed. Someone under 18 would have no idea what I’m talking about. Nowadays there’s streaming services and no ad breaks! With this new world of social media comes a new form of marketing… Influencers. An influencer is someone who has a following evidenced by their social media account and uses this platform to recommend a product. As the name suggests, they influence their audience, and from what I understand, this form of advertising can be quite lucrative. Such is the power of influence.
I was talking to a friend of mine about the influence particular friends were having on his teenager. I think everyone with kids worries about this at some stage. It’s because we know the power of influence. Put together with how pivotal those teenage years can be, it’s a recipe for parental worry. But it’s part of life – human beings can be influential as well as easily influenced. Now, this can be great or terrible.
I would much rather my sons be influential than easily influenced when they get to the adolescent stage. When I look back at my teenage years, I have to say I was easily influenced. I think it’s because I cared deeply about what people thought about me and I wanted to be part of the group. And that inadvertently gave people some sort of power over me. Man, it feels good to grow out of that. But many people don’t – people’s opinions still mean more than they should. My hope for my sons is that they would be centered, secure, willing to go against the herd – to be influential in youth culture rather than influenced by it.
Now maybe that’s a bit much to ask from a kid. It was for me at that age. But now a few years down the track, I see a better way. Even if people don’t agree with you, they respect someone with strong values, who is centered and well-considered. And respect is influence.
Jesus tells his followers to be light and salt to the world. Both were very important to live in the ancient world. Both changed the environment when present. We have a choice. Do we want to be potent, bringing our influence into a culture? Or a sponge, absorbing anything we are exposed to. Are we going to be individuals who are respected or chameleons trying to blend in?