Over the past five years the number of social media influencers posting sponsored content on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms has been on the rise. Influencers are notorious for promoting products like vitamins, weight loss tea, and waist shapers to their audiences, and these sneaky ads (popular with the Kardashian clan) date all the way back to 2014. However, with their large and attentive followings, celebrities and influencers are also able to create positive change in society by calling attention to important causes and creating a lead for others to follow.
Ariana Grande broke the HeadCount voter registration record in December 2019 for the number of fans who registered to vote at her Sweetener world tour. Through Grande’s own massive following and a collaboration with HeadCount’s social media channels, awareness quickly spread using #ThankUNextGen.
So, when Naomi Oladeinde, an undergraduate student majoring in political science and double minoring in sustainability and international business at Kogod, explained why she decided to apply to become one of Forbes’ Under 30 Scholars, it came as no surprise that she was influenced by one of her peers. “One of my friends was applying, and once I saw that they got in, I thought I could do that too,” says Oladeinde. “I’m really one of those people where if something isn’t seed planted, or somebody doesn’t mention it, I’m not the type to think about it much.”
While Oladeinde admits to being influenced by her peers and pop culture icons, she is still influencing others through her successes. “The Forbes application process helped me reflect on times that I made sacrifices to show my leadership and inspire my friends around me to do the same,” says Oladeinde. From interning with the Joe Biden campaign during the summer of 2019 and being accepted into the Corporate Analyst Development Program at JP Morgan Chase, Oladeinde demonstrates to others that hard work will deliver results.
“I’m definitely a person who moves with strategy,” says Oladeinde. “I recognize the intersectionality of politics, business, and the environment.” Oladeinde chose the combination of studies that she did because they will help her reach a larger audience and affect the change she wants to see. “Whether I consult or manage campaigns, my goal is to foster change in the world,” says Oladeinde.
Already, Oladeinde is being recognized as one of the most promising students in the country. When she was accepted into the Forbes program, she joined other rising scholars for a four-day summit in Detroit. “Being accepted was one of the first times I could sit back and see that I’m on the right path. I was really proud of myself,” says Oladeinde.
Oladeinde is already dreaming up new ways to influence the world around her, and she credits some of those ideas to the diverse group of peers she met at the Forbes conference. “Being among the other students and learning about everything they’ve already accomplished, it made me reassess some of my own skills and discover that I could already do some of the things they’re doing. We grew up with media, so their stories gave me new ideas,” says Oladeinde.
Oladeinde’s attitude is a common one in today’s young adults. A study of 150,000 millennials over ten years found that they are primarily influenced by their peers, while also being everyday changemakers who believe in the power of activism.
Now that younger generations have more in-depth insight through the media, there is a stronger connection among peers and with celebrities, along with an increased awareness of problems and how to combat them.
When fostering change, being able to see others performing the desired behaviors is incredibly influential. Instagram added an “I Voted” sticker for users to add to photos on election day that, when clicked on, allowed others to find their closest polling place and other information. Over 1000 users saw these stickers per minute, creating the perception that voting was the norm and something everyone should be doing.
Positive persuasion from pop culture and peers can also come in more abstract forms. When asked who inspires her most, Oladeinde settled on one of the most influential names of her generation, but not for the reason one might expect. “Kylie Jenner—I don’t want to say she is my inspiration, because she’s not, but just the idea that she’s so young and a billionaire, it’s the whole process of success that inspires me,” says Oladeinde. “We can take our ideas and make them tangible; that is what inspires me.”
As part of the most influenced yet influential generation, Oladeinde fits right in with wanting to make a difference. “No matter what field my work is in, if I am doing something that adds value to the lives of others, I will feel successful,” says Oladeinde.