Under the influence

Most of my workdays start with a dose of broadcast news. It often sets the mood for the day.

On Monday on CBC news a camera panned over to the weatherman. “I could be replaced by one of them,” he offered, followed by the TV anchor issuing a chortling repartee: “don’t say that, you could be …”

This exchange of guffaws followed a story on new-age influencers. And no, this was not about visionaries who have a raised a voice to affect positive change for humanity like being better custodians of the environment or having empathy for the less advantaged.

Not at all.

It wasn’t even about the rich and famous offering up their privileged world view on social change and the latest must-have accessory. No, this was about “virtual influencers” – cartoon characters for lack of a better word – that peddle stuff and drive sales on social media. It was suggested these avatars, some quite life-like, could become more prevalent and accepted in 2021 and beyond.

Truth be told, I ended up on CBC having switched from my regular routine of CTV’s Your Morning, to get away from its exhaustive round-up of Hollywood types and athletes who were such an influence on others in 2020. I find it infotainment of the worst kind.

At any rate, the ability to blur reality and fantasy is officially gathering steam, if that weren’t obvious already. Pretty soon a character could well be offering up the weather or even doing the broadcast. That’s progress some might say, and the tightest of fiscal conservatives may actually enjoy seeing some of the fat salaries slashed at the state broadcaster, which currently burns through $1.2 billion of taxpayer funds a year. But I digress.

Although 2020 has presented realities not known to most living souls, the sooner this notion of “influencers” gets the vaudeville hook, the better off people will be. The sooner deeds replace words and imagery, the better the world will be. The sooner fantasy is replaced by reality the better.

In their haste to promote and promulgate the infallibility of photogenic, talented people – they have done a disservice to the average man, woman and child. Sure there are exceptions and some truly awesome famous people that inspire others, but true influencers that make differences in their communities, are right here at home. Local is real.

Unlike the privileged and overpaid people that tend to be called influencers, the vast majority of people will not vacation on a secluded beach in the Caribbean. A good number will never come close to having a dream car. Most people will never have access to a private jet or platinum credit cards. The closest some will come to brand name fashion is a pair of Nikes and denim Levis, as opposed to the latest trending garments from Milan or Paris.

The people we think about as influencers are real. They are local.

Take the man who retired from a corporate job and spends every spring working on the Lions Home Show and every fall helps organize the Christmas Toy Drive for local kids.

How about the middle-aged professional woman with three small kids at home that never misses a Rotary meeting so young people can go on an exchange visit to another country?

How about the lady whose grandfather got her into the Legion, where she volunteers to keep granddad’s memory alive?

4-H moms and dads? They give their time and finish chores early to teach other neighbour kids about their chosen club and leadership in rural areas.

Consider the people in the workplace who don’t have a nickel extra at the end of the month but are always the first to donate to the Christmas food drive.

Where would we be without people who give their time to Victim Services or the Rural Women’s Support Program to help families through tough times?

How about people that organize AA and NA meetings to help sufferers get on the right track?

How about the nurses, personal support workers and doctors who perform a hero’s work on an hourly basis?

There are so many things we can do in 2021 to influence and better the lives of those around us.

Yes, people can live wondrously through social media and vicariously through the stars, but nothing compares to making a difference locally.

Be a local influencer.