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Whilst watching television with a few members of my family recently, a programme came on, as we flicked through the channels, that was following the lives of some ‘celebrities’. I knew a couple of the older ones, and I’d heard of one lady who is a singer, but I was at a loss as to who the other ones were. I was told that one was a ‘Digital Social Influencer”.
“A What?”, was my reply! Apparently it is now a profession – who knew!
I am told that somebody becomes a social influencer by having a large ‘on-line’ presence, that enables them to promote products and places, for which they get paid! The more they get ‘followed’, the more work they get and the more of a popular celebrity they become. It doesn’t necessarily require any specialist knowledge or qualifications, just the ability to manipulate the internet and social media, and influence people. Popular products promoted include, clothes, makeup, drinks, basically it is another way of creating fashions & trends.
As usual this got me thinking, and the question I found myself asking was, “Am I an influencer?” Obviously not of fashion!, but as a deacon, one of my roles is to proclaim and spread the message of the Gospel. When I am reading the scriptures in public, preaching and in the discussions I have, surely that is my opportunity to influence others about the Christian life, but do I realise that is what I should be doing?
But, thinking a bit further into this I don’t need to be a deacon to be doing this, it is the task that is set to all of us who are followers of Christ. This can be done in many ways, words and actions, example, the way in which we live, how we speak about life choices and indeed what causes we opt to follow and support. In all of these choices, others look at what we are doing. If we do them with conviction and consistency people take notice, ask questions, maybe try to join us, and then we know that perhaps unwittingly we are influencing them.
However there seems to be a chance of conflict in this way of living. Influence can be a very powerful tool, and used in the wrong way can lead people in the wrong direction. In a society that appears to be more and more anti-faith, influencers are playing a big part in shaping the thoughts and moral basis of us all, particularly it would seem a celebrity hungry younger generation. There have been many complaints recently about how the newspapers and press are apparently manipulated and controlled, and in doing so this shapes the thoughts of many to the news stories that we see and hear about our world. Not only is there mis-information, there is also non-information, that means that the whole story sometimes isn’t told.
This isn’t new, but we should be aware of it. Indeed it happened to Christ Himself, when the leaders of the people were trying to get Him killed. But do I give it a second thought? Do I blindly follow the mainstream news, politics and fashions, or am I a person that bothers to challenge and ask questions. Do I have a desire to influence others, if I think they are being mislead, or someone isn’t telling the truth?
More fundamentally though, am I influenced to influence others by the teachings of the Church?
What part of the teachings of the Church do you wish were taken more seriously by those around you and by society in general? Do we know what the Church actually teaches regarding, for example, Same sex attraction, Confession, a Christian’s role in Politics, Medical care, etc, etc, etc…??
Influencer or influenced, which describes me?
Deacon Ian Black