Are you the influencer or the influencee?

By Kassandra Lopez, Global Strategic Communications graduate student at the University of Florida

If ifluencee is not a word yet, I’d like to formally submit it to Merriam-Webster via this post.

@communicationtheory.org

Through my journey of education in grad school, I’ve come upon the two-step flow model theory. While the name of the theory is rather fancy, it is simple in nature. As shown in this lovely infographic, the mass media shares information, that is then understood and digested by opinion leaders and shared with individuals seeking information from them.

How this works for the average individual is that a reputable news source, such as the Wall Street Journal will put out 10 articles in a day. The opinion leader, for example, John Oliver or Trevor Noah, then choose which information is worthy. They also dictate what ‘spin’ or angle to share this information with. Their opinions on the information will now be heavily consumed by audiences with prior trust in their judgment.

Additionally, we actively participate in this model of receiving information, nearly every time we open up a social media app. A news bulletin shared by a friend on Instagram is being perceived by you through the two-step flow of information. In my personal life, I have eliminated social media activity. My job is (was?) quite literally to manage the social media for an entertainment company. I interacted with hundreds of people a day via social media platforms and was always plugged in.

But after being placed on furlough from my job in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt the need to eliminate social media and other media consumption from my life. Why, have I as a 23-year-old mid-pandemic, decided to ditch all social media, you might ask? Well, I was losing all my unemployed marbles. It’s no secret that the media we consume affect us, but I’m not referring to my own social media-inspired mental health crisis. Personal inadequacies aside, we are influenced no matter how much we limit our exposure to the outside world.

I decided to cut my cable tv connection several years ago, to limit my exposure to programs that brought out the worst in my anxiety-riddled brain. Many people assume the influencer phenomenon is new or limited to the younger generation but I argue it’s always been around. From an entire generation of people who heeded every word of Oprah’s advice. To our great-grandmothers (or me on Halloween) seeking out and buying a halter-neck white dress due to the iconic images of Marilyn Monroe.

Image found here.

I have admittedly been very drastic in my choice to socially distance from the current state of the world. Although, this choice is functional for the time being (I’m stuck at home anyway!) I know I’ll have to return to normality at some point. Yet, even with my consumption at near 0. I am still influenced. I am influenced by my boyfriend who comes home from work raving about a new salad place. I am influenced by the Shein app notifications that encourage me to scroll through clothing items I do not need. And I am undeniably influenced by what items Publix has decided to put on BOGO that week. I have learned we all function within this theory as both consumers of mass media and inadvertent thought leaders. When we in turn share information to those who trust us.

First-gen Cuban and Argentine. Full-time Marketer. BA in Humanities/Cultural Traditions, Art History + Anthro. MA in Global Communications + Social Media