The Responsibility We All Have As Influencers

I give successful bloggers a lot of credit, somehow they find things to write about all the time. I’m not so good at that. So when I have a conversation with someone that sparks an idea, or if I happen to observe or read something that really strikes a chord, I have to write it down as soon as possible.

Social media has handed everyone a global platform, soap box, or mountaintop to talk, yell, scream, mutter, or whisper from. I’ve held onto the thinking that as long as you’re not doing anything illegal or harmful to someone else, how you use social media is completely up to you. I won’t tell you what’s the right way or the wrong way, I’d rather point to examples of methods that are used to successfully attain the goals that were set.

As with any platform or medium, there are people that are more influential than others. Influence can mean something different to everyone but for the sake of this post I’ll say that someone who is influential has the ability to create engagement or an action. That action could be a click, a like, a retweet, or simply starting a back and forth conversation. An influencer is able to generate a reaction to their action.

The question is, how much responsibility does an influencer have when their actions cause reactions that aren’t so great?

For those of you old enough to remember, basketball great Charles Barkley sparked a lot of conversation when he said, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids”. For the record, I agree with Mr. Barkley, or Sir Charles as he’s often referred to, I don’t want him raising my kids either. But if you have achieved celebrity status, or are a public figure, people will mimic and model themselves after you.

“I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids”

~ Charles Barkley

Recently I observed someone with a rather large social following make a comment about the choice of food someone decided to eat. The comment was negative, shaming the decision publicly. Given the individual’s large following, the comment generated a lot of conversation with people agreeing and disagreeing with the comment. Personally I was surprised that the comment was made, and then even more surprised by the defense used when called out about it. They claimed that the comment was made out of concern for the individual they were shaming. In my opinion, if they really wanted to help, they would have spoken to the person privately.

The shaming comment was obviously made to get a reaction from followers, as are all posts made on social media. If you don’t want a reaction to what you have to say, don’t share it on social. But I have to believe that there are better ways to get reactions than at the expense of someone else that doesn’t deserve it.

So were there consequences to that influencers actions? No, probably not. The person being shamed will probably never know that they were. For those that jumped in on the fun, they probably see the tactic as being ok, and that could have an effect later on but probably nothing immediate. If they were to mimic the influencer’s actions in the future could we point back at them and say they cause it? I don’t know, maybe not, but they certainly didn’t help positively. As for me, I know that from now on I will think differently about this person, and not in a good way, and I’m sure others will feel the same.

You might be saying to yourself that you’re not a celebrity, and that might be true. Maybe you’re not. But with social media, you’ve got access to people all around the world. I guarantee you that you’re probably influencing more people than you realize. What you say and react to matters, so think first before putting it out there.