What Does It Really Mean To Be An Influencer?

It might not be as obvious as you may think.

Janice Ruan
Sep 6 · 5 min read
Photo credit: Cnet.com

In today’s world, almost everything is connected to one another. We can connect instantaneously in seconds to pretty much anyone in the world. We can use social media to our advantage and stay connected to childhood friends or friends that we made when we were teenagers.

In the digital age, every moment is a moment worth spending with friends and sharing them with the rest of our friendship circle and the world through all forms of social media. But social media is a game.

It is a game where the more likes and followers you have and are able to obtain, the more you are perceived as being “high status”, and the more influential and unique you presumably are to others.

True influence, however, has nothing to do with digital self-promotion to millions and billions worldwide. It has nothing to do with marketing analytics or metrics, or even any “shoutouts”, as often mentioned on platforms like Instagram.

A true influencer is one who is able to truly develop a strong sense of self, and often times resist following the crowd. So-called Instagram influencers are not truly influencers, but rather they only serve as a stepping stone for other companies to market their own products.

Of course, anyone can become an influencer, as long as you develop some sort of personal brand and are able to effectively leverage your social media to reach that goal.

But being a true influencer does not involve leveraging your social media. It involves leveraging who you are, your own sense of self, and your own self-confidence.

People who often spend time alone typically fall into one of two broad categories. There are those who are turbulent individuals, who are shy and may display varying degrees of social anxiety and fear of judgment.

These are the types of people who want to be accepted by others, but cannot let go of an inner obstacle, holding them back from achieving what they truly want.

On the other hand, there are the assertive individuals, ones who actively and consciously choose to be alone, because they truly want to, and because they are comfortable and happy with who they are and don’t need to seek others for external or internal validation.

I have taken both terms from the Myers-Briggs 16 Personality Types website. And even though it does not directly apply, the personality characteristics described on the website of both turbulent and assertive individuals bear a striking resemblance to the two types of people who are often found alone.

Assertive individuals who prefer alone tend to have a strong sense of self, and because they are comfortable in their own company and likely realize that they can accomplish more of their goals in their free time, group settings naturally start to lose their appeal over time, especially those in a social setting.

Those who are assertive typically have solitary hobbies, such as reading, writing, or playing music. They may be forever inquisitive thinkers, naturally able to take a step back from the noise of society and analyze why something is the way it is, or what could be done to solve a particular problem afflicting everyone else of society.

Much of what I described in the last paragraph coincides with my own personality traits. Just a couple of days ago, I met one of my friend’s moms, and even though she doesn’t speak English and my Mandarin Chinese certainly isn’t at a native level, I was still able and willing to converse with her, entirely in Chinese.

How and why was I able to hold a half-hour conversation in an entirely different language with someone that I literally just met with little difficulty? I am genuinely curious about other people and would love to build trust or any sort of friendship with them, and this alone often overrides any internal anxiety that I may have about meeting someone and having to talk to them the first time.

If you find me in a group setting, however, I will likely appear withdrawn and not as engaged in the conversation as others. It’s not that I hate group settings, but I just prefer social settings in a one-on-one setting, because I can get to know the other person better and there is a much greater likelihood of building trust. And to me, it is more meaningful.

Recently, I have started to evaluate my priorities and what exactly I spend my time on, and I realized a lot of the things I spend time on isn’t exactly meaningful.

Mindless scrolling through Instagram, for example. I think everyone can relate and agree that this is probably the epitome of contemporary meaningless activity.

To me, unless absolutely necessary, group social settings are also somewhat meaningless, because it is just not possible that all of us can build equally close relationships with one another.

Go to any party with at least 10 guests. Out of the 10 people, there will by 3 or 4 subgroups that form, consisting only of people with whom the others consider their close friends.

We as human beings were not made to make close lasting friendships and relationships with many people. It is just not possible and too emotionally and time-draining.

I realized that I might be getting off-track, but this does somewhat tie into what I was stating before about how social media influencers are not truly influencers. The best way to make a change in someone’s life is actually not a role model.

The reason why is because just being a role model is passive, in which people only observe but do not actually do because it does not directly involve them.

A true influencer is almost like a mentor, in which one person make genuine connections to others and facilitate inspiration in the other person if it happens.

For example, a celebrity making $10 million per album sold might inspire others to do the same, but because of the lack of personal connection, the actual rate of people who choose to do so will likely not be too high.

Whereas if that same celebrity had built lasting friendships or relationships with others before or around the same time she earned her fortune, her friends will take into account both the situation and the person, and likely be more motivated to do the same or something similar.

The main difference between a social media influencer and a true influencer is that while a social media influencer leverages social media in order to gain the attention of both followers and brands looking to promote their content.

The true influencer looks deep inside to gain a strong sense of self and leverages that to genuinely make meaningful connections with others and inspire them to do the same.

Which one are you?


Stories that celebrate the openness about the joys, victories, milestones, and pitfalls of life.

Janice Ruan

Written by

I write short essays on the nature of reality and my thoughts on it.



Stories that celebrate the openness about the joys, victories, milestones, and pitfalls of life.

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