Why the A-List Conversation Hurts Us

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This is a guest post by Geoff Livingston.

The ongoing conversation about the ills of the A-List produces the opposite effect than desired. Instead of creating a correction, it builds a stratosphere of influence, and creates a perception of unworthiness for the rest of the social web. This demeans the value of everyone else — literally everyone who is not a top ranked “A-Lister,” a crying shame consider that the rest of the population has as much of a chance of becoming truly useful and influential.

In some ways the “A-List” conversation is fostered by leaderboard systems of top bloggers (Ad Age 150, Technorati) and influencers (Klout, Empire Avenue). It is perpetuated by insider chatter and a corresponding attitude of eliteness from the top tier (perceived or real). This type of influence is popularity driven.

Welcome to the Fifth Estate (yes, I just shamelessly pimped my new book) concludes with a discussion about influence over the long-term. Here’s the truth about influence: It is highly subjective, and shifts with the topic, time, situation and community. Further, leaderboard influencers are not likely to create groundswells of actions. Usually, this type of influencer is a content creator or social network personality — the dog that barks the loudest. When it comes to real action, most of them can’t bite.

Influence and Individualism

Twenty years ago, the equivalent would be to dub a TV star as extremely powerful. Can you imagine Donald Trump winning the presidency of the United States based on the popularity of his TV show, “The Apprentice?” As bad of a job that our elected officials do, indoctrinating a media personality into the profession of governance would likely create much more damage than reform.

That’s why the conversation about the A-List seems fruitless and harmful. It invests time and gives influence to people who can’t accomplish things. Further, the cost of personal equity and a lesser perception of position is harmful. That makes no sense. We should be focusing on moving the needle of progress forward. The reality is that every single person has an opportunity to become influential with their community of interest.

Real influencers are awarded their position for doing great things. They are activists like Stacey Monk, or builders of new technologies such as Anil Dash. They provide real new perspectives to online media like analytics whiz Avinash Kaushik or change the business forever with new thought, like Charlene Li and her still noteworthy book, Groundswell.

These people actually do things. Their influence was a result of achievement. It may wane if they don’t continue doing great things, but in the end, this type of influence is admirable, things that people remember for decades.

Doesn’t it make more sense to talk about the noteworthy influencer instead of the narcissistic A-List? Aren’t the noteworthy successes the ones we aspire to emulate? Which can you learn from, who will make you and your efforts better?

Five Tips to Stop Supporting “A-Listers”

Ultimately, someone is only influential if they are given that influence by their community. If you don’t believe in the A-List’s influence, here are five ways to separate yourself from the conversation.

1) Don’t link to them. Linking above all else helps support their “top tier” positioning. Instead, link to people whose conversation challenges you and provokes the forward motion you are seeking.

2) Give up trying to converse with them. Why try to have a relationship with someone who is not there? Instead focus on those who do participate.

3) Don’t talk about them. Talking about them as unfit leaders still leaves them in a leadership position. This is leadership by perception. Move on, or if you do talk about them, do so in a peer-to-peer fashion. Everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time.

4) Unfollow and unsubscribe from them. If they and their behavior really upsets you, this is an act of self-preservation. Your online time will become exponentially more enjoyable.

5) Stop wasting your time on them. This above all is the most freeing of the tips. When you realize that this A-List conversation has become an energy suck, a waste of your time that is holding you back, you can reprioritize on something meaningful, for example, Danny’s 12 for 12K Challenge, or your own efforts for business, social good, or personal development.

This is mindful and good in its own right. Rather than fighting, you have moved on. Pursue new horizons.

What do you think about the continuing A-List conversation?

About the Author: Geoff Livingston is the co-founder of Zoetica, helping non-profits and socially responsible companies connect with their audience. He’s also the author of Welcome to the Fifth Estate and Now is Gone. You can read more on Geoff’s blog or connect with him on Twitter at @geoffliving.

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