Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Musings: The Sphere of Influence

The other day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed (as I have become prone to doing in any moment of downtime--and, while we are on the subject, I must say this is a habit I wish I hadn't picked up), and I saw the funniest/most insane thing, so of course I had to share. A very famous and admired blogger had posted a black photo. It looked like the camera must have gone off in her bag or pocket or something and somehow the photo got posted to her feed. There was clearly nothing in the photo. I feel the need to emphasize this point. There was nothing in this photo, people.

Shortly after the photo was "posted," presumably accidentally, this picture had well over a hundred likes--this was moments after the photo went up. Moments. My favorite comment in the comment section? "Oh my God! You're pregnant!" Say what?! But that wasn't even the most compelling part of the whole thing. The thing that amazed me most was that people were "liking" a photo of nothing simply because of the person who posted it. If this famous and influential blogger thinks that this picture of nothing is cool, then clearly the general public who follows her feels compelled to also think that this picture of nothing is superbly awesome and worthy of their admiration.

This got me thinking about influence. While I do honestly think this blogger is amazing (she has a huge sphere of influence), I do not understand why people wouldn't simply think, "Oh, she posted that by accident." Instead, they are so crazily obsessed with everything that she does that they just had a love fest with a black square. That's a little frightening. This is an innocuous example of the power of influence, but there has also been news recently about Jenny McCarthy's son that made me think about the potential danger of this kind of blind devotion to people we admire. Years ago, Jenny McCarthy made claims that her son was autistic and that his autism was directly linked to vaccines. She also said that she cured him using "alternative methods" (i.e. ones that are not scientifically proven). Now, apparently, there is buzz that her son might not be autistic at all. Regardless of whether her son has autism, and all the other details of this story, the thing that always disturbed me about McCarthy's campaign was that she was spouting off about curing an autistic boy with completely unsupported and unproven methods and, inevitably, people were going to listen to her, believe her, and do exactly what she said because she is a celebrity. This example doesn't feel so innocuous, right?

Certainly I have been influenced by people I admire. Whether it is career advice, a new item of clothing, a brand of makeup, or a variety of diaper, I look to people I want to emulate and take their choices to heart when making decisions myself (and some of these people are in the blogging community). (Aside: Someone wrote about how chevrons are out the other day, and I started having a heart attack about my wall!) Seriously, I am not above being swayed to do or to like certain things by people I think are "cool." But, I like to think that when it comes to an important choice, like the health of a child, I would have enough sense to stop, think, and ask someone who actually knows what she's talking about (like a medical professional) before assuming that said cool people know what's right for me. In the end, the aforementioned blogger quickly took down her accidental post, but I wonder what it felt like to be her, to look at the nothing she posted and the way people responded to it. Though her sphere of influence is fashion related, I only hope she knows the power she holds.

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