We live in a world of influencers. An influencer is somebody who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience. Are these people shaping the way we think about and see the world? Is personal inquiry a lost art?
While there’s a lot of positivity and discovery that can happen with influencers, they can also be problematic. Modern culture encourages quick fixes and life hacks that accommodate to our busy schedules and short attention spans. The younger generations in particular have become accustomed to taking in a huge amount of information that’s delivered in the most concise way, and as a result may be losing the capacity for discernment.
Discernment in this context is a type of mindfulness. It’s the ability to pause, reflect, and decide if the reality being perceived is aligned with one’s own personal identity, values, and beliefs. Without discernment we adopt a group mentality and absorb information whole.
“Recognition of ignorance is the first and hardest step to true knowledge.” - author unknown
Taking in information from the world is no different than ingesting something we eat. We hopefully approach food mindfully, chew it well, digest it, absorb it, and excrete what we don’t need. This process is lacking in the modern world of influencers, and as a result people are not only bloated and constipated, but actually starving for the truth.
As an elder I have taken it upon myself to guide others in the development of the fundamental skills we all need to be more discerning. Here are the top three:
Being curious is an essential skill if we want to live in a world we trust. We have to ask questions, practice caution, and demand the answers we deserve. This is true with politics, the food we eat, and anything we are being sold or encouraged to try. Blindly purchasing or buying into others influence only empowers the systems we are trying to make more transparent.
Paying attention and being present with ourselves, our lives, and others ensures that we are accurately receiving information. When we take things in mindlessly we are swallowing them whole and adopting ideas without even knowing it. This is a dangerous way to live, and it’s probably the main reason so many people are successful in becoming influencers. It’s crucial for all of us to practice mindfulness when it comes to taking in information from the external world because mindless consumption is at the core of the gluttony and waste we’re currently battling.
The ability to reflect is both a choice and a capacity. In the modern world it has been treated as a luxury, and as a culture we only really engage in it when we have to. Reflection should be practiced daily in the same way you might lift weights to build muscle. When we become skilled at reflecting we are more able to access our own truth, and we feel stronger in our convictions. Without reflection we are vulnerable to outside influence, and we lose our innate sense of ourselves.