The term influencer refers to someone who is knowledgeable about a certain area of life and finds a way to convert that knowledge into a way of making money by gaining followers. Sometimes that knowledge is about a particular product or service or brand. Sometimes that knowledge is about an intimate understanding of oneself and one’s life story, an understanding which people can identify with, and one which allows them to dream along with a dream life style or else learn from the mistakes of others. In truth, influencer is quite a nebulous concept, and yet, many people aspire either to become one or else to gain guidance in their lives from one. Influencer is a relatively new term, maybe fifteen years old, and certainly reflects many of the problems that people have negotiating their life narrative in modern technological society. An influencer is a little like a cult leader. An influencer focuses on guiding a person in one area or one aspect of his life, while a cult leader tends to demand a total allegiance of a follower and, by extension a total remolding. An influencer’s influencing tends to be much less intense. To the extent, that the influence is indirect, through, for example, a person displaying his life’s narrative on television, it does not envelop a follower the way that he would be enveloped by the messages, dictates and example of a cult leader.
Nevertheless, it does say something about the state of the human psyche in modern technological society. As people get increasingly numb from the growing influence of modern technological devices, they develop more and more conative anesthesia (numbing of the will). This makes them more incapable of making their own choices and moving forward in their lives. They simply float along in an experiential vacuum without purpose and without direction. For those who became paralyzed by inaction, a cult leader who allows followers to share in a larger collective will, may be necessary. But for those people who are somewhat more functional, an influencer may be all that is required.
And, in truth, maybe many of the people who get involved in giving people guidance today fall on a continuum, somewhere between an influencer and a cult leader. Some people start off as influencers in one area or aspect of life and gradually add other areas or aspects of life, until they are for all practical purposes a cult leader.
By making this connection between being an influencer and being a cult leader, we can see how truly insidious the seductive control is of the influencer, and we can see how pervasive the penetration into so many different areas of life is the power of the cult leader. The fact that the influencer, if given the opportunity, expands his control into more and more areas of life shows that he is not just involved in his work solely for financial concerns. Unlike Jeff Bezos and Amazon, he cannot simply expand out his power by hiring other people to take over different aspects of his business. The influencer has to be directly present in each of the areas into which he is expanding, much closer to a Donald Trump than to a Jeff Bezos who has retired as CEO and transitioned to executive chairman. The influencer wants to be directly present in each area in which he is involved, because he is in his business to a great extent because of the personal power which he is able to accrue.
By the same token, a cult leader develops his sense of total power over his followers in the way that he is able to get inside their minds and find ways that he can become the embodiment of the solution to all their various and sundry concerns and grievances. However, while an influencer focuses on dealing with problems from a more factual data-driven point of view, a cult leader is more focused on large emotional generalizations to deal with problems. The more areas an influencer adds, the more it becomes difficult to confront followers with more and more factual presentations that they are expected to absorb. After they have gained a certain level of power and transitioned to a cult leader, it becomes so much easier for the influencer/cult leader to make emotional presentations to convince people. At such a point, the content of the presentation no longer matters so much as the emotional connection that it represents. What matters is the emotional grounding that the influencer/cult leader can provide in order to pull the follower out of the numbness and the experiential vacuum in which he is immersed. In other words, style becomes more important than substance.
In politics, people today are becoming more and more predisposed to jumping directly from paying attention to a detailed examination of where a candidate stands on the issues to his charismatic presentation of self. They are getting more used to this approach as a result of the way they deal with all the charismatic influencers in their lives. No wonder that Trump and Trump-like candidates are becoming so powerful in American society today.