NOT an influencer

June 3, 2020–They call themselves Influencers.

We called them the cool kids in high school–cheerleaders, quarterbacks, the guys who could play the chords to Smoke On The Water, and the seniors who drove nicer cars than the teachers.

We science fair nerds and future farmers envied them their clothes, fashion sense, hairstyles, and effortless mastery of the latest slang. How did they manage to color match outfits with tastefully worn jeans and let that strand of hair casually fall across one eye? Now we know they had older sisters for fashion guidance, they bought their stone-washed jeans at a mall, and they spent 20 minutes every morning making that strand of hair look like a casual accident.

Today we worship Influencers with a capital Eye. The only difference between them and Lance the Quarterback is that today’s Influencer has a hundred thousand followers and is able to monetize their fashion whims.

I am bemused that this generation’s heroes revolve around consumerism. Sure, as teens we worshiped the newest bands, bought their shirts, copied their hairstyles.

But our heroes were people who accomplished things.

We read Horatio Alger and wanted to be like him. We idolized John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and Annie Oakley. The very first word I ever wrote was ZORRO. The first Christmas gift I remember was a Lone Ranger outfit. Yes, the TV shows were simple and contrived, and the good guy always won. But what was wrong with that? Their example gave kids something to aspire to.

Maybe it was unrealistic. But maybe not.

Anyone could grow up to be the Lone Ranger. You just needed a horse and a mask. You didn’t need to be bitten by a radioactive spider or build an armored flying suit or descend from Mount Olympus to battle the bad guys. You jumped on your white horse and out-rode, out-thought, and out-shot the enemy.

It was fantasy, but attainable fantasy.

Today’s Influencers are not real. They present carefully curated images that have been passed through makeup artists, fashion directors, film editors, and software imaging filters. I was self-conscious enough about my acne in a class of 100–not sure I could have survived thinking the entire planet was acne-free.

I remember the day one of my own children came home during his freshman year and declared, it’s all a game and no one knows anything more than I do. From that point on he followed his own path and is still doing so. He figured out the game very early on, and no longer cared to play it.

Which is the best way to influence every game.