In the Age of the Influencer, Who is Pulling Us Up?
ONE FROM THE AGES
Writer Alan Watts, who popularized Eastern philosophy in the West, on how culture creates perception:
"Our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by society.”
Let’s do some reverse engineering. What crucial assumptions should our culture be hardwiring? What is the opportunity of upbringing and education to embed advantageous defaults in its people?”
ONE FROM TODAY
Author, Mark Manson, on the roots of modern marketing:
“Pretty much every form of marketing or publicity we’re all subjected to today began with (Edward) Bernays.
But here’s something else surprising about Bernays: he was Sigmund Freud’s nephew.
Freud’s theories were some of the first to argue that most human decision making was primarily unconscious and irrational… Freud was also the one who understood that people are, at heart, animals and are easily manipulated, especially in groups…
Bernays was aware of all of this, by the way. But Bernays’ political views were like a diet version of fascism — he believed that it was both inevitable and in everybody’s best interests that the weak be exploited by the strong through media and propaganda. He called it “the invisible government” and generally thought the masses were stupid and deserving of whatever smart people convinced them to do….”
Source: Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope, by Mark Manson
ONE FROM US
There have never been more outlets competing to manipulate your behavior and never more power to influence it:
Every purchase, digital click, email, and Google Map route, is tracked, sold, and processed through advanced algorithms to determine your particular marketing vulnerabilities.
App designers exploit subconscious psychological weaknesses to keep you scrolling and checking in.
Today two primary forces are actively using this massive new power to influence both individual and collective behavior :
Companies seeking to get you to purchase a product or invest more time consuming their product
Entertainers whose fortune depends on the ability to become influential and whose values may be questionable
The media has shifted from an educational platform, there to help you make sense of the world, to an entertainment platform competing to hold your attention. Thus, no strong cultural force exists to counter the tremendous power of influence from the above sectors. In fact, education has often been a pawn.
As the cultural nucleus of our modern societies, education is best poised to counter this influence and embed fulfilling habits. Education has the opportunity to commit itself to pursue the principles that underlie individual and collective flourishing. It can offer us the capacity to understand psychological vulnerabilities while respecting our freedom to choose how we spend our time. In this era of influence, education’s duty must be to become an authority in human development, dedicated to nudging culture towards higher quality living.
Life is too short to be normal,
For more on the power of influence check out my piece, Feed the Right Wolf, and for a better understanding of how to follow through on your desired behaviors, Justin and I have a free ebook, How to Make Changes That Stick.
Other Helpful Resources: