Sorry to break the news, but the mentors we think we have, are nothing more than influencers dressed up in mentor-like attire. Influencers want to see their followers grow, while mentors want to see YOU grow. And knowing the difference will alter how much impact they have on your life, and stop you from taking advice from people whose intentions aren’t always in your favor.
Well first, what is a mentor? Based on the definition, a mentor is a trusted advisor with experience, that seeks to coach others with less experience. An influencer is a person who does a really great job at persuading people into purchasing products. Although both definitions are clearly different and have not changed much since the day they were created, people tend to have a hard time differentiating between the two.
Is Social Media to Blame?
Thanks to social media, the lines between who is a mentor vs. who is an influencer have gotten even blurrier, as people are more accessible to one another. It makes us feel more attached—as if we know more about someone’s life, when we really know nothing at all. Therefore, influencers are forced to take on a more mentor-like role, when maybe they never wanted to in the first place. Now, instead of having only a few mentors in our lifetime, the options are endless when more mentor-like influencers pop up on our feeds.
Strip Away the Followers and the Money!
So how do we filter this? Remove the followers, money, and the fame from the equation, and I bet the people you thought were mentors are not. There is a misconception that the more followers and money someone has, the more likely they are successful. When we think about mentors and people who influence us in our lives, it’s hard to imagine someone who is not successful in this way. However, success is subjective, and however you define it will determine who you choose to listen to. And money and followers do not dictate how good of a mentor someone is. Whether a mentor “made it” financially, or through other subjective descriptions of success, it is their coaching skills that really defines their role, and separates them from influencers.
Quality Over Quantity
Another way to detect the difference is by paying close attention to the quality over quantity of their content. Influencers do a great job in providing lots of content that inspires and motivates people to want more for their lives. However, the content itself is selling more than it is teaching. You often are getting a very tailored story of how they got to where they are in life, which almost feels like influencers are just big spoiler alerts to a really great movie. Rarely do they share the content that’s hard to write, detailed, and can be easily followed by others. Those who mistake influencers for mentors will grow hungry as they scroll through tasty, yet unfulfilling feeds. The reality is, that’s not what buyers want. Buyers are like children who want the dessert before doing their homework. So naturally influencers have a different motive when creating content. These types of “mentors” will sell you a story with no script. But, it’s not their fault that we failed to do our homework before consuming their content.
Mentors Can be Influencers Too!
Although some social media influencers have diluted the definition of what a mentor is, it also opens the door to those authentic mentors who once could only dream of a moment where they could impact so many lives by just a click of a button. In reality, the best mentors are usually the “nobody’s” of the world. Therefore, they are rarely ever seen or heard. I’m talking about the ones who don’t have it all yet, but have the spirit and drive for success. The ones who aren’t afraid to share the grunt work with the world, while they are STILL doing the grunt work. They themselves do not attach success with money or fame, rather they focus on how they can purposefully coach others. Slowly, they too may begin to dabble in the influencer world. As their followers grow, their intentions will remain the same. They will often check themselves and make sure their content is providing valuable information for individuals who seek to learn from them.
So what does this all mean for you? It means you should be cautious the next time you log onto your social media account of the content you consume. Re-evaluate the influencers you once thought were mentors. Not saying you should unfollow them, but be aware that some of them do not deserve to have such a close place in your life to mentor you. They are simply doing their job to sell and quite frankly, they rarely want the sort of pressure that comes with seeing you grow anyway. Social media is both a dangerous but beautiful place and it is our job to monitor what we are consuming and most importantly, from who.
Thessiana Shama Mesilus merges the art of storytelling and psychology throughout her content. She founded Shama Works that serves as a creative platform to help individuals lead, grow, and heal from within or wherever there is a story to be heard.