by Cherszy (@cherszy)
Our ever reliable friend, Miriam Webster, gives us the following definition: the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.
What effect, we might ask ourselves. What is that effect that infiltrates through thousands or even millions of souls around the world? What is that effect that moves us or captures us or even empowers us?
To many, that effect may be clad in the form of inspiration. To me, however, I’d like to equate that effect to change.
To be an influential person, one must be able to spark some sort of change in the society. You are influential because you can change something in people. You are influential because you have the power to cause a change in what’s existing.
When Time Magazine released its list of 2011’s 100 Most Influential People in the World a few days ago, I cannot help but question my idea of “influential”. Going through the list made me think that maybe being influential doesn’t necessarily entail creating a change but rather being popular. Either I have a wrong definition of influential or Time was somehow blinded by the glitzy glory of entertainment. Not to be vain or anything but I’d go with the latter.
It is easy to accept candidates such as Wael Ghonim (who caused a change in the indifferent attitude of the Egyptian youth towards political injustice by calling for a peaceful revolution), Mark Zuckerberg (who has changed communication as we know it with Facebook), Geoffrey Canada (who has created an education opportunity for disadvantaged children through his project called the Harlem Children’s Zone Project and changed the fact that education is only for those who are privileged to be in schools), and Nathan Wolfe (who has been working on dangerous projects in order to prevent a virus/disease before they become an epidemic), among others, as they have clearly scored high in the “change” or even “hero” category. They have stirred up a commotion in the community where they revolutionize a certain system in the society. They have contributed something fresh, significant, and worth noting. They are themselves a change.
They may not all be famous – I’ll admit that it is only through Time‘s list that I have come to hear of Ron Bruder, the guy who founded the Education for Employment Foundation in the Middle East to help at-risk youth learn technical skills which they can use to find temporary jobs, or of Rob Bell, the Evangelical pastor who questions the “biblical discussion of salvation” and is changing the way Christians/Catholics accept what the Church teaches them – but they all tell an inspiring story worth listening to and worth learning from.
And then, we have the showbiz superstars who sparkle among the heroes and inspirations who have taken a mile further to “transform the world”. Let’s admit it, they’re more famous than half of the people up on the list. Say the name Justin Bieber, and I’d bet that half of the people on the street in New York City would turn around and look at you either with a mocking face or an excited face, depending on your level of Bieber fever. Scream the name Bineta Diop, and you’d be lucky to get 20 people to turn and say they’ve heard of her work. Point is, the world runs by wealth, by power, or by fame but that doesn’t always have to be the case.
In recognitions like Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, I think that we should acknowledge those who have really imparted an influence, those who have really made a difference. This is their time to shine, so give them what’s due. This is not the list of 100 Most Famous or Most Phenomenal People in the World (or else I wouldn’t wonder if Miley Cyrus or Rebecca Black is included in there too), so, in my humble opinion, unless these popular people have inspired others to change, they can skip this “awards show” and let those who deserve it more take the spot.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no hater of those celebrities on Time’s list. I personally think Blake Lively is gorgeous and that Mark Wahlberg is good-looking. I think Amy Poehler is super hilarious. In fact, I am a fan of Bruno Mars because his music is beautiful. I also love Mia Wasikowska as her performance as Alice in Alice in Wonderland was lovely. And well, I think Justin Bieber is a tween dream. My point is, fame is one thing but influence is another and a big word. Not because you get the paparazzi running after you 24/7 means you’re making an influence in the world. You’re making a statement with your picture, not an influence.
To be on the list of the most influential takes more than just a pretty face and a hot bod – it takes guts to voice out, a mind that questions, and a heart that is willing to make a change for others to be inspired and to follow suit. I’m not saying your favorite celebrities can never be influential or are not people to look up to. They can be your inspiration as much as you wish, but if we’re talking globally, some of those on the list are not exactly those who we’re looking for yet. Although I should not be generalizing that these celebrities aren’t contributing a change at all (because they might actually are), but up to this point, I’m not sensing any visible moves yet.
Prove me wrong, superstars, and get on with making a visible change. Take advantage of your fame to spread awareness and help the world. I challenge you to prove to me and to the rest of the world that you deserve that spot on Time‘s 100 Most Influential People because you are inspiring others, not just your fans, with your courage and determination to change the world as we know it. Be an influence. Embody its very definition.
What do you think of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list for 2011? And how will you define influence?