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2020 was a year of many challenges. As we moved into the online space more and more to stay connected...we also became heavily influenced. By people, things, words. Looking back on 2020, who or what influenced you the most? And as we move to 2021, will that serve you going forward?

According to Influencer Marketing Hub "Influencers in social media are people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic. They make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views." Influencers and their topics look vastly different. They can range from home decor to politics to everything in between. One of the most prevalent issues seems to be that anyone can become an influencer. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of knowledge about a subject...just enough to make one dangerous if you will...and a group that is willing or interested enough to follow. What we are also seeing is when the influencer ends up with a large following, the large following doesn't always equate to fact checking on the influencers part. Many times it can be quite the opposite. The desire to stay relevant, may outweigh the perceived responsibility to provide accurate information. And the way that influencers stay relevant is to push out massive amounts of shocking content. Gone are the days of fact checking and authenticating information.

As we find ourselves leaning heavily on social media for current information, we must ask ourselves who are we allowing to influence our life? Are they reliable? Do we trust their information? Do these influencers present themselves with integrity? Do they represent themselves in a manner that you would like to represent yourself? Why does this matter? There is the old adage that

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

As Darren Hardy writes in The Compound Effect:

“According to research by social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard, [the people you habitually associate with] determine as much as 95 percent of your success or failure in life.”

The people you spend the most time with influence who you are. Currently due to Covid, we are now online MORE than we are in the presence of others. Which means who we are following, who we are allowing to influence us in the online space...these are the people that are shaping who we are. These are the individuals that we are allowing to take-up our mental head space if you will. They begin to determine what conversations dominate your attention. They affect the attitudes and behaviors you regularly expose. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave. This can have a positive or negative effect on your life. And your families life. Why is that important?

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Our children are watching. They watch what we say and do. This generation is heavily influenced by online influencers. It is one of the first places teens turn to for all of their information. But they do watch us. They watch to see what we are saying. How we are acting. What we are posting online. (News flash...your kids stalk you online and they know all of your accounts. They are ridiculously smarter than us in this space. And frankly are nosey enough to want to know what their parents are saying). Here is the reality, if we are allowing online influencers to have a negative impact on our online life, that will show up in personal life. How you speak online will show up at the dinner table at night or on long car rides full of questions. If we want to set a good example for our children, we must control any online (and offline)verbal vomit... if you will... that may come from us. Until the age of 23 or so, youth (young adults) do not have a fully formed brain that provides impulse control. So it is much harder for them to control what they say and do. This includes online. And can lead misguided teens into incredibly dangerous territory. As adults we do have impulse control. We can control who we allow to influence us, and how we respond. This in no way means you should not have a voice. It means that we are responsible for our voice. We are also responsible for the consequences of our voice. There is a beautiful opportunity here to teach our children to learn to use their voice, but in a way that is aware and constructive. Discuss with them who their favorite influencers are. Ask them why they like this person and most importantly does this person align with their values? Does this person make them feel good or bad? How do they think this influencer makes others feel? I also ask that you do the same. Take each one of those questions and apply them to the people you are following.

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Here's the good news. If people you are following are not making you feel happy, supported, centered, hopeful...you have the ability to unfollow them. Take a day and unfollow the people that are not meeting these needs. It is incredibly liberating. And then teach your children the same. We get to lead our children into the next generation. What a beautiful opportunity, and a staggering responsibility. Protect your space by carefully choosing who you allow into your space. And then protect your child's space by teaching them to do the same.