01/17/2012 09:22 am ET Updated Mar 18, 2012


Who shall set a limit to the influence of a human being?
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

As humans, we are knowingly and unknowingly influenced every day. We are influenced by celebrities, politicians, media, and peers.

If Justin Bieber stated, "I don't believe in the tooth fairy," who knows how many little girls would stop believing in that little magical pixie that replaces the tooth under their pillow with money at night? I respect quite a few celebrities (Justin Bieber is not on the list), and they can influence me, whether through their song lyrics or simply their opinions. I have a few friends who are obsessed with celebrities such as Taylor Lautner or Lady Gaga; they tend to trust anything their idols might say.

Politicians' campaigns often promise that "everything will get better" or "I will fix it" -- and these proclamations are believed, leading to more and more supporters. Election candidates will do almost anything to win the attention of citizens, and will attempt to sway them as much as possible; it's the key requirement for the success of every politician.

Reports from the media can also deceptively mislead us into thinking or agreeing with certain ideas, or they can incorrectly tell us wrong news. And if we hadn't had the media to spread the news of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the idea would never have spread. Millions of Americans wouldn't have known about or joined the protests without the media covering every single movement of the Occupy effort. Americans wouldn't have been influenced to join, because they wouldn't have been repeatedly told that they were the 99 percent and needed to do something about it. The idea of Occupy Wall Street would have never lifted off the ground, and wouldn't have led to Occupy San Francisco, D.C., London, Tokyo, Rio De Janeiro or Sydney.

Our peers can influence us more than anything else. If someone my age doesn't agree with an opinion of mine, I am already unconsciously reconsidering that belief. A few days ago in the locker room at school, I overheard someone say, "Ugh, you like Adele? She's so whiny... and I totally thought she was a guy when I first heard her." I was momentarily crushed. I love Adele as a person, and I am obsessed with her music. I thought about what I heard: Is she actually whiny? Does she sound like a guy?

But I stuck to my own opinion: I love Adele. I shouldn't care about what people think -- but I'd be lying if I said I didn't care what people think. However, I try not to, and that's what counts; resist the impulse to give in to other people's urgings.

Being influenced is not always a bad thing. We can be influenced to give to charity or help the homeless. We can be convinced to get good grades for college, exercise more, and eat right. The problem is too much influence. Too much influence leads to a loss of real, unique personality.

It's important to be our own individuals. If we cave in too often to others' persuasive thoughts, and care more about other peoples' beliefs than our own, there will be no originality left. We would lose what makes us our own character. But that is society; whatever can be used will be used when it comes to influencing customers, followers, friends, voters, families, and supporters. We just have to learn to be influenced by the right things.

But the question is, how do we tell the good influences from the bad?

It is possible -- we do it every day. The very nature of society is the majority making a determination of what is good. It is up to our own fair judgment to reason whether or not to let anything persuade us. In this way, we continue to prove that individuality is what makes humans distinctly different from one another, with ranging personalities, appearances, and opinions. Individuality moves the human race forward, because if we were all the same, there would never be anything new under the sun.