Influence is a word that increasingly features in our daily vocabulary; so much so that we now have people who go by the title of Influencers. Impacting the behaviour or thought process of others is a concept the vast majority of us could relate with since we were kids. Our parents warned us about peer pressure and how it could derail us from the straight and narrow path. At school, we were admonished not to join band gangs to ensure we weren’t tempted to engage in untoward activities such as drugs and heavy drinking. All our lives, we have been lectured on the potential danger inherent in influence.
One would have thought that with the onset of adulthood, phrases like “bad influence” would no longer be bandied around so much, after all, adults are supposed to be mature enough to make their own decisions without recourse to external approval or validation.
Apparently, nothing could be more wrong.
The reverse has been the case. When a celebrity recently suggested that women throw unnecessary tantrums to spice up their relationship, there was an uproar. The indignation many felt was premised on the concern that impressionable young ladies would kowtow to the advice of this person and by so doing, stood a chance of engineering the demise of the good thing they had going.
It’s the same way we condemn lewd lyrics in our music and dance moves that are overly sexual. We are genuinely worried that naive young people will hop on these trends without stopping to think of how it does little to edify. We are irked by our politicians and fraudsters who appropriate huge sums of money not only because they do our image plenty of damage within the international community, but also because we are worried that the upcoming generation will imbibe the unwholesome idea that stealing is okay.
And we may be right.
However, what we neglect to take into consideration is the place of independent thinking and decision making. I believe influence is overrated. Many times, adults behave a certain way because they always had the propensity to do so and not necessarily owing to what they see others do.
There are people whose closest friends are chain smokers, yet, who have never had a drag of smoke.
Back in the days when we were in university, we had roommates and coursemates who blatantly prostituted. They were in our faces daily; we interacted with them. We shared banter and related every day, yet some of us never considered taking up their lifestyle even when we were dead broke and could have done with some help.
How easy is it to influence someone who knows who they are and is comfortable in their skin? My guess is, not very easy.
Attributing a person’s negative metamorphosis to the activities or advice of a random celebrity is tantamount to adjudging them incapable of independent thinking. And if this is the case, it means something went wrong in their upbringing.
Parents who were not slack in raising their kids–imbued them with the capacity to discern right from wrong–hardly ever have to worry that they’d be swayed by the shenanigans of others. It makes no difference if they are public figures or command a huge following on social media.
You can be surrounded by negativity or evil and choose to not be a partaker of it. Of course, life would be far easier if the circumstances were ideal and one did not have to dig in adhere to their values, but circumstances are hardly ever ideal. A child who has been inculcated with the values of contentment, humility, hard work and honesty would have little trouble warding off bad external influence.
The herd mentality that is pervasive today is a product of mental laziness. Influencers are the convenient fall guys because we are reluctant to accept that we are responsible for our actions or inactions. We blame social media, rant about irresponsible role models and elders, castigate everyone but ourselves for decisions only we chose to make.
It’s a no-brainer that anyone who’s 18 and older and if of sound mind is solely responsible for their actions, thoughts or beliefs. There are no “ifs” or “buts”. The law recognises that anyone who has attained this age is capable of rational thinking and can be prosecuted to the full extent if they err.
We need to stop giving imaginary powers to influencers. Influencers are people like us; they do not force or induce anyone to do what they were never yearning to do in the first place. And in the end, they are probably doing what they were paid to do.
The buck of choice stops with us.