About five centuries ago the word ‘influence’ was used to define the ethereal energy that flows from the stars to earth and affects one’s character and destiny. Then up a couple hundred years and it was used to describe someone ‘under the influence’. Now it is powerful buzz word describing a unique position of sway that some hold in the online world.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)
We can call ourselves influential to people like our children, spouses, friends and maybe co-workers. Maybe we have a tougher time seeing it as tangible that we are influencers to our Facebook friends, or Instagram followers. When we consider that we are called to be influential to those around us we can ask, what it means to be an influencer – online and offline . . .
It means being in community
We all have that person we love to be around, often because it is how they make us feel. Of course, we have people who we find draining, they grumble and complain and suck the cheeriness right out of a room. Everything we do makes someone else feel a certain way. The way we hold our bodies, tone our conversation, shift our eyes when they tell us something, the words we choose. We can’t escape our role as influencers.
Our influence exists because of who we are to others. A teacher, a mother, a blogger, a barista. These relationships put us in proximity to others. Our influence on each other is the essence of community. It draws others to us or pushes them away. We only have influence when we are in community. That means we have it online just as much as we have it offline.
It is a two-way street
In a sense, there is this exchange happening. We are all influencing one another, energy is transferring to and fro. Sometimes this is a great and fruitful thing, sometimes this is damaging. When we consider this two-way street we often think about ‘toxic relationships’ and people we generally try to avoid. But, in this era, we are also influenced by the shows we watch, the music we listen to, the people we follow on Instagram, the posts we read on Facebook. We choose to expose ourselves to many sources of influence and we need to be mindful of how they are impacting us.
It means trusting God’s grace
Influence: the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
God really shows his gentleness by giving us all influence. Instead of control, he grants us with influence to impact one another. He wants to see hearts unfurled, and friendships nurtured and children engrained with values all because of our influence. By trusting our influence to impact others in a positive way means giving things to the grace of God. This is especially important for those working online. There is value in using our platforms with a purpose, but there is no need to be forceful our faith and growing our influence. There is a long game at play and sometimes we are short-sighted and controlling with what God intends for our influence in all areas of our life.
It means stepping up
It seems easier to accept that we are influential to those we see in person. We know we are impacting our families every day. We know the way we treat our cashier each week matters. We understand that we need some level of responsibility to others for how we are acting each day. How about online? We shy away from calling ourselves influencers online, especially if we don’t have a large following. We cannot sidestep the fact that what we do online does influence other people. We can’t see their face, or hear their feedback to what we share online, but that silence should not give us the notion that what we do online doesn’t matter. When we are online, we need to step up to the responsibility we have to others with what we share and how we engage online.
It means authenticity
God asks us to be his light-bearers but often we want to choose the type of ‘light’ we bear. Our influence is rooted in who God made us to be, he needs us to be specifically ourselves. He needs authenticity from us so that we can shine the light he needs to be shone to those around us. Of course, we will still influence others even if we do not choose to be authentic, but then we miss out the opportunity to be the light-bearer we were designed to be.
You don’t have to be an ‘online influencer’ in order to have influence online.
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