The Addiction of Influence

There’s this need to be somebody. There’s this need to be wanted. There’s this belief that in order to be successful you have to be important, famous, and rich. I used to think this too. I was wrong. And it’s something I still struggle with. 

Influence shouldn’t be seen as a path to happiness. Success or living in a Pinterest world doesn’t erase our challenges, flaws, or problems. It just hides them and removes them from the viewer’s point of view. 

What Does It Really Mean to Be a Have Influence? 

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to having visibility through a blog and a platform such as social media. It’s connected me to amazing people. Given me opportunities to engage and meet new and interesting people. I get to hear great stories, work with amazing clients, and I believe that my writing and speaking helps others. However, there are times I really wonder how much we have changed or influenced others positively through our work and evangelizing. 

That’s the conversation I had with a friend of mine who I don’t see often enough but admire. We grew up together in social media. He made a name for himself in a large corporation while I focused on my efforts as an entrepreneur evangelizing HR and recruitment. We have walked separate yet parallel paths. It’s been nearly 10 years and looking back, we asked ourselves if we really changed anything? 

Part of me says no. Part of me says I did it for the fame. Maybe I did it because it was a game. It’s fun to be liked. It’s exciting to be recognized from the moment you walk in the room.  Because who doesn’t want to be Beyonce? 

There’s Only One Beyonce 

I’ve realized all this was an addition, and I found self-worth in being recognized at a conference or event.  I have been building something that isn’t scalable. It requires constant maintenance, updates, and ongoing work in order to not just maintain but excel. 

The silly selfies, tweets, and blanket statements of success in order to win the acceptance of others and to appear like I’ve done something with my life. I cringe when I do take the time to review my Facebook on this day history. I have been addicted not just to influence but the self-acceptance of others. My happiness depended on them as did my success. 

I guess that is what working in the influence business is. In order to attract the attention or interest of others, you have to always be on. Your success happens when others perceive you a certain way. You must always be relevant, interesting, fun, and in demand. So you overshare, humblebrag, and engage in order to be respected, revered, or in demand a certain way. 

I’ve made the decision to not do those kinds of things. The blog and my work can stand on its own merit. I don’t need to convince or prove to anyone that I deserve to be recognized or included. Doing those things are silly and juvenile activities that don’t speak to the heart of my mission which is to drive change, resources, and share best practices with the human resources and recruiting community. 

But that addiction of influence isn’t just my own. You are competing in a small pond against a group of other influencers who are all vying for the attention. They are addicted too, and they need the reader to want and idolize what it is that you or they have. 

So I guessed when I think about the ugly side of this addiction. Because of your perceived influence, you become a target. There are angry, hurtful comments. Sometimes there are death threats to you and your family which leads you to wonder why you started creating this community of influence in the first place. 

The Ugly Side of Addition Influence 

The ugly side of addiction is the pressure that you put on yourself to always be on whether it’s writing really great content, producing an amazing video, and the fear that is associated if you fail or are wrong. Recently, a friend who was separated went through what ended up being a very messy and hurtful social media situation. 

As an influencer we put ourselves out there focused mostly the good parts, but when we reveal our human side which is often viewed as weakness people it brings out the worst in people. This addiction isn’t just in social influence or social capital. It happens at work. There are politics all around us personally and professionally. Driven by the need to be liked, hearted, retweeted, and reblogged, it’s how many of us measure our success. 

As I said I’ve been giving an awful lot of thought to this. It’s something that has been bubbling up to the surface of myself during my personal commitment to mindfulness. I want to be happy. I want to be proud, and most importantly I want to be surrounded by the people who matter the most to me in my life. 

I’ve thought about the legacy I’ve built and how to truly provide resources, support, and friendship throughout it all. It’s not just social media, blogging, technology, or your mobile phone to blame. It’s our lack of commitment and investment in our own selves, dreams, wants, and needs that are driving this. We are human beings. We have flaws. We make mistakes, however, the important thing is that we learn, evolve, grow, and hopefully change. 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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