Influenceable. I had to check and see if that was really a word or not. Easily influenced would have been my first thought, but I wanted a word that sounded more like Influencer.
This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but I have a very very strong dislike of influencers. This is likely my covetous streak’s hackles that get raised when people flaunt a lifestyle that I cannot or shouldn’t have, but just make it look so desirable.
I am guilty of curating my photo galleries, tweaking their colors a little so they are consistent. I include only the photos where my family looks (somewhat happy), or in which my apartment looks (mildly) presentable. I know how to take a photo against a tomato-red background so that the colors pop just right.
I have a teeny, tiny social media presence, which exists for me to keep myself accountable for challenges I set for myself, and to connect with people I really, genuinely care about.
That looney Fields family
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again: when my indulgent husband and I met 25 years ago, we were both students and neither of us had a television in our rooms. When we married 22 years ago, we moved into a furnished apartment that didn’t have a television. We never considered getting one.
Once, maybe 12 years ago, a couple we knew was getting a new television, and asked us if we wanted their old one. We made a conscious choice at that point, after 10 years of marriage, that we didn’t want to bring television into our home. Ever.
I do not have a smartphone. I have a Blackberry, which was new to me at Christmas in 2019, but which was manufactured in 2006. It has buttons for each letter, which is why I like it. I can send text messages and call people when I need to. It is a mobile phone booth, with text message capability.
I also do not want a smartphone. Ever. Here’s why: for all their helpfulness in a pinch, for all the immediate access they provide to information and answers to burning questions, I do not want the responsibility that comes along with a smartphone.
Don’t get involved
I recently witnessed a situation in which I felt as though I had been preserved from heartache and from saying something stupid and thereby hurting someone’s feelings, simply because I don’t have a smartphone.
For years, when I was responsible for a group of singers, they pestered me to get something called WhatsApp. For years, they told me it would make things easier for me when trying to get our schedules down. For years I told them I don’t have a smartphone, and for years they told me I should get one. For years I just said, “yeah, yeah, that’s what you always say.”
Last year, I handed the reins of that group over to someone else, although I still continue to sing as part of the group. I never did get a smartphone to appease them. This year, WhatsApp created a situation which left more than one person with a broken heart: one unhappy person publicly and unfairly calling out another person for a bunch of things that should have been discussed privately instead of via an application on a telephone.
But since I don’t have a smartphone, I didn’t know what was going on. So I couldn’t get involved. Because I couldn’t get involved, I couldn’t take sides. By not taking sides and keeping my mouth (and fingers) quiet, I appeared to be wise.
Even fools seem to be wise if they keep quiet; if they don’t speak, they appear to understand.Proverbs 17:28
I would have had plenty of things to say, had I known what was going on. I would have, as we say in French “mis le pied dans le plat” (put my foot in the dish). But I didn’t. My stubborn refusal to get a smartphone was the only thing that kept me from slinging mud.
Back to the idea of Influenceable and Influencer.
When I was much, much younger, and my sister was reading the Sweet Valley High series of books, my mother told me that I was not allowed read them any longer.
A mother telling her daughter not to read? What is this? She was right, and now, as a mother myself to a little boy who is exactly like me, I know why.
My littlest scalawag and I identify with villains. In any story, from 101 Dalmatians to Paw Patrol to Sweet Valley High, he and I love to take on the voice of the villain. They are so much more fun. So much more interesting. It manifests in little ways. the “Hia hia hia” laughter, or the deep, irritable accent of Cruella DeVil.
When he plays Playmobil, he always has to have a villain. Far more than his older brother does. When he plays Doudou (stuffed animals) in Doudouland (stuffed animal land, which he invented with his father), he always plays the villains. He takes intense pleasure at being the bad guy.
So did I.
I only knew villains existed because I read about them in a book. Same for my littlest scalawag. We are not talking about kids who were watching above their paygrade superhero movies, here. We are talking about personality types which are highly influenceable, and this only by the written word. Our imaginations imprint what we read, and desire to reproduce it. It scratches some kind of villainous itch in our souls.
I do not want to be an everyday villain, although being a villain is woven into the fabric of my soul. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me from being one is that I do not have a smartphone.
It’s hard to go backwards
After everything that we’ve heard this week about social media companies, I have never been more comforted in my decision to be a smartphone Luddite. Without a smartphone, I was able to keep my social media use to a minimum, simply because I wasn’t carrying it around with me in my pocket.
I know for a fact that it is hard to go backwards with technology; it is very much the proverbial boiling frog. That is very much the conscious reason why I have never gotten started.
I do not enjoy having to tell people I meet that I can’t receive the photos they send on my phone. I do not enjoy being lost when I am looking for an address in town.
But I would rather do that than become the idiot that says everything that is on her mind and proves that she is a fool. This certainly doesn’t make me an influencer, but it does keep me from being influenceable.