Using YOUR Influence

You are a person of influence, and you can make a difference.

"Influence? Me?"

Yeah, you.   Maybe you think reporters, elected officials, corporations, and big-name commentators have lots of influence. You're right! But you have face-to-face connections that they don't: people who know and trust you. Your influence can influence others to use their influence.

Everything you need to become a mover and a shaker is at your fingertips: email messages, blogging, twitter, even your Facebook page.   

Here's how savvy citizens use their influence, one step at a time:
  1. Care about something.
  2. Do a little learning.
  3. Find your friends.
  4. Share what you learn.
  5. Keep it real.
Once you have a top topic, you need to get savvy about it. A good ol' Google search will give you some basic background information, and it might highlight new controversies or trends.  The plan is not to exhaust yourself!  Just learn a little more than you did when you started.

Once you've learned more about your topic, keep your influence REAL:
  • Read source documents.  Many documents are online at all levels of government.  Take questions directly to elected officials or their staff, by phone or email.
  • Don't rely on just one blog, one news story, one email, or any Wikipedia article.  (Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, making its value sketchy.)
  • If it sounds outrageous, too good to be true, or if it smells like a rumor, slow down and check facts before you share it.  Is it true?  Is it necessary?
  • Find the info in more than one place, and get different views.  Make sure your cross-references aren't just recirculating the same story, by the same author.
  • Resist the temptation to spread juicy rumors that seem to support what you believe.  Without facts backing you up, you lose credibility and could harm your cause.  
  • Speak out to defend the truth. A rumor left unattended can fester and grow.

Be aware that every source has its bias.  Reporters are just people. Some are better than others at separating their beliefs from their work.  Others publish only what their readers will want to hear.  Think about where you enjoy getting your news, and why that might be.