Pamela Brubaker, BYU associate professor of communications, encouraged students to both follow and be positive influences during her devotional address on July 18.
Modern-day social media influencers have the power to shape followers’ thoughts, actions and self-perception, Brubaker said. In general, influencers are “people who you want to emulate,” according to Brubaker.
In conversation with BYU students, she said she discovered the common denominator in positive influencers was kindness.
“Influencers who make the biggest impact are heroes who step up to provide comfort when you need comfort,” she said. “They find ways to help you mourn when you are mourning. They embody Christ’s love.”
Brubaker said she was inspired to be a sunny influence in others’ lives after a trip to an amusement park with her three young nieces. While waiting in a two-hour line, they struck up a conversation with the teenagers next to them.
In the course of the conversation, they learned that the teenagers had recently been orphaned, Brubaker said.
“Turning your focus on other people can have a healing effect that helps lift burdens and mend broken hearts,” Brubaker said.
Though social media users can choose to like and follow different influencers, the choice to follow Jesus Christ is more intentional, she said.
Jesus Christ’s apostles were asked not only to support Him and His doctrine, but to ultimately become like Him. As Christ washed His follower’s feet, He taught them to “love one another,” a sure evidence of their discipleship.
“Our Father in Heaven expected disciples of Jesus Christ to do more than metaphorically click on a ‘follow’ button and proclaim casual interest in His son,” Brubaker said. “Following the Savior and becoming a disciple is more than proclaiming love for Him, it requires keeping His commandments and loving others as He loves them.”
Brubaker talked about her small flock of backyard chickens, who instinctually maintain a strict pecking order. In God’s plan, she said, there is no pecking order.
“Comparing yourself to others and demeaning them does not increase your value or make you better,” she said.
Digital media can distort personal relationships, Brubaker acknowledged. Behind a screen or anonymous username, individuals may not choose to love one another.
According to Brubaker, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s tarring and feathering by a mob and the Pharisee’s judgment of the woman taken in adultery are an example of modern cancel culture.
“You cannot control what others say or what they do, but you can control what you say and how you react,” she said.
To be a positive influence in the world, Brubaker said individuals should be kinder, cast fewer stones and do away with pecking orders.
Brubaker said she once ran a BYU 5K race and was touched by her runner friends who kept pace with her, making her feel welcome in the running community.
“Just being a member of a community does not mean each person feels like they belong,” she said. “What a blessing it is when others reach out and help us realize that no matter our weaknesses or personal failings, we belong.”
Above all, Brubaker invited the BYU community to listen to Christ’s invitation to follow Him. He is an influencer who knows His followers and helps them transform, she said.
“When you make Jesus Christ the greatest influencer in your life, and truly follow Him, you begin to act as he would act and love as he would love. You begin to see others as He sees them,” Brubaker said.