Dear Instagram Influencers and Inspirers

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There are few shows out there right now that have both a calming and exciting influence on me as I watch, but one such show is the World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals on Netflix. In this binge-able beauty, show hosts Luis, Joanna, and Megan take you to some of the most luxurious, unique, and budget-friendly vacation rentals on the planet. 

Unsurprisingly, all three hosts have massive followings on Instagram, Megan topping the other two with over 756,000 followers. 

That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of influence. 

Confession: I’ve always been critical of the idea of Instagram Influencers. The fact that anyone would take their cues in life from a person’s social media feed seemed crazy to me. What to wear, what to buy, how to decorate, what to drive, how to think. And to be sure, there are plenty of people who have plenty of followers, but nothing of value to say. 

But that’s not the story across the board. 

In fact, I think the best influencers are great storytellers. Not just entertainers. Not peddlers for profit, helping to pass the time while you and I use the bathroom. But the kind of storytellers that remind you that there's excitement out there just waiting for you to discover. That there is a calming beauty, not only in places that you have never seen, but in places you have always been.

The best influencers are storytellers that point our attention to age old wisdom that has existed for generations, been collected overtime by humanity, and preserved in many different ways: from the orators of old, the scribes who copied manuscripts, the sages who sat secluded on summits, and the rabbi who preached a sermon on the mount to multitudes.

Whether through oral traditions, written words, published essays and books, movies, shows, Instagram or Tik Tok—the best storytellers point us to the unchanging wisdom about what it means to be human, and how to live as one.

The best influencers have figured out how to package the ancient into something worth aiming for. 

Dax Shepherd, co-host of the successful podcast, Armchair Expert, is one such storyteller. In his episode with Aquafina, while expressing his former frustration with YouTube stars, he noted the same truth expressed in the Old Testament’s Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There’s nothing new under the sun."

Relenting on his complaints he admitted that books are published year after year simply re-packaging the collective wisdom of 3 millennia of human civilization. Hep points out that, really, the best YouTubers are simply doing the same. It's not a criticism, but a necessary condition for preserving the collected wisdom. 

I recently read this quote from Barry Lopez: “The idea that the writer is a wise person…I tend to shrug my shoulders about that. The writer’s responsibility isn’t to be wise. The storyteller’s responsibility is to remember what we are all prone to forget, and to say it memorably.”

Every society throughout history has had its producers of wisdom, but they weren’t always the story tellers.

What’s the point? I guess this is an open letter to Influencers. . . 

Dear Instagram Influencers and Aspiring Inspirers,

Please continue to point us to the calming, the exciting, the true, and the beautiful. Point us toward what it is to be human. Point us to the wisdom of the ages, and package it in a way worth aiming for. Remember that you are not the producers of wisdom but the proclaimers of it. Remember what we are all prone to forget, and say it memorably.

-A Follower

One more caveat: Regardless of how many followers we have, you and I are also influencers. Parents, preachers, teachers, scientists, servers, students, PhD’s and D.U.M.B’s—if you have a relationship with people—you have influence. 

You are a storyteller. 

To all of you who are the best or aspire to be, continue to point to the wisdom of the ages and package it in something worth aiming for. 

We will all thank you for that! 

P.S. Go watch both seasons of World’s Most Amazing Vacation Rentals on Netflix. #NotAnAd

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