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The Influence Blog

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    The Influence Network

    It’s easy to look at women online and see only a glossy exterior. Maybe the photos and words seem glamorous. When daily life is full, hectic, and downright normal, maybe you wonder how she can do all those things. How does she think those big thoughts or dream up something new or inspire so many followers? Her life can’t possibly be as gritty, messy, lonely, or real, as yours.

    When the Influence Core Team began, I was just barely blogging on a brand new site. I had hopes of connecting with this group of phenomenal women I had watched on the #influenceconf hashtag during the very first conference, and a blog seemed the best route to take. I am a quiet soul, so I had nervously put my foot forward and introduced myself on social media. I’ll be honest and tell you, I looked at all the other girls on the core team and told my husband I had no idea why I was included after seeing how many followers each of them had. Surprisingly, I could connect with these seeming online giants on so many levels, and their daily lives were shockingly similar to mine. Just because they blogged didn’t mean they didn’t have struggles, heartaches, messes, and children’s temper tantrums to work through. They used their voice, and people listened.

    I have found the same thing to be true for myself. As I kept writing down my stories and words, I connected with a beautiful group of friends. Thanks to two years with the network, my writing, photos, and blog design improved. I wrote, and people began to listen. My job as content manager is a fairly behind-the-scenes role, which often involves sending 100 emails to help keep the network running smoothly and generating fresh, beautiful content through all our different avenues. My goal is to highlight other women, who are doing big, brave, fresh things in the kingdom, and tell their stories well. I like this quiet role, and I’m grateful other gals on our team are comfortable with handling a microphone with ease or writing big, gutsy posts.

    Over roughly two years, the platform of Influence has launched our entire team into something far bigger than any of us could do on our own. I’m grateful and genuinely humbled to stand in front of you as a leader in this community.  I still find it surreal that any words I have written could be read by thousands of people. The Internet is certainly a powerful tool to quickly communicate ideas. The fact that people have followed us, joined in the work, and stepped up as leaders, is all God’s work.

    None of us are known because we are extraordinary on our own. I fail, I forgive, I need Jesus desperately, and at the end of each day, I hope to have loved well. So, I take this online work seriously. I believe this work, my small role, can take a tool, which I once despised because of the damage it can cause, and use it for incredible good. But I also know that as soon as I stop writing this post, I will go back to a very ordinary life. My most lasting influence continues to be in the quiet bits, sharing a meal with friends, holding hands late at night, creating a home for my family, thumbing through the pages of my Bible, and sitting in the pews on Sunday morning.

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    I’m not sure when it started, but somewhere in the last three years it became incredibly common for people to quit the internet. Bloggers who’d risen to stardom would simply slip away or women who’d once found community on Facebook and Twitter would go missing. As a core team, we find ourselves occasionally texting each other the links to people’s “goodbye post”, their last blog or update that said they were quitting and explaining why. Heck, we even occasionally joke about drafting ours in our head – what would we say if we quit the internet?

    There are a million and one reasons to quit the internet, right? It can be a distraction from more important work. It can lead to bitterness and jealousy and comparison. People can hurt you with their words or you can find yourself having hurt others with what you’ve said intentionally or not. Maybe the pressure is too great or something tragic calls you away when you realize the internet will never quite understand what you’re going through.

    But can I confess? I see the internet through a different lens? I see it as a catalyst that makes all these problems worse, but I don’t see it as the arbitrator of our problems. I think if we’re not distracted by the internet, we’d be distracted by something else a lot of times. For us moms – maybe it would be TV, ironing, or knitting, but I don’t think the internet is the only thing we’d find to divert our attention. For writers and workers – it could be a million other things. Long before there was twitter, there were still employees who lost their focus, right? And as far as comparison goes, comparison and jealousy are sins in and of themselves – we as women struggle with these sins when we go to church or playdates. If we struggle, we struggle at the supermarket and in line at Starbucks. Instagram exacerbates things surely, but it’s not the cause of our sin. And I find that the people who struggle with the pressure to be or strive or grow and think that quitting the internet will fix that? They usually pick the internet back up, because they didn’t address the identity issue inside of them that pushes them to do just that.

    I genuinely believe there is a time to step away, a time to take stock and a time to abide. As a core team, we talk a lot about analog weekends and stepping away from our iPhones. I personally try not to be online from 3-8pm when my family needs me most. Sometimes when I go on vacation, I totally ignore the internet for a week or more and I have a strict “create before I consume” rule – meaning, I don’t scan instagram or read other blogs when I have a deadline due or I’m trying to make some sort of art. There’s a time to abstain, but for the most part – the issues that plague us surrounding the internet are HUMAN issues that can be dealt with by going to the Lord or applying the gospel. They’re not issues that became real only because of the internet and they don’t go away when we quit it.

    Can we suggest another way? Not totally selling out and letting the internet sweep us away and turn us into monsters. And not quit altogether and deem the online world evil? We like to call it the funnel. In our core team, we talk a lot about the funnel and the idea is that in general you take all of online life and sift through it, let it go through the  filter of what works for you and what you need, and only take what comes out of the bottom. If twitter doesn’t make you smile and it’s not life giving, don’t do it! If you don’t feel the need to blog and you’re more inspired on instagram, don’t blog! If watching certain people online steals your joy, there is no rule that says you have to follow them.

    Inside the funnel, we sift out what is actually going on in our hearts and our online lives and we hold it up to God. Which parts of the internet can I use to give you more glory, God? Which parts of the internet would help me run my business better? Which help me meet my goals of connecting with people or encouraging them? DO THOSE, SCRAP THE REST. And while you’re in there, while you’re funneling out what works for you and what doesn’t, watch your heart and see what work He might want to do through the parts that don’t come easy for you. Do you need some prayer and some freedom where comparison is concerned? Do you need to believe some truth about being God’s workmanship and not striving? Let Him at your heart. Let Him help you sort it out.

    No one has to use the internet, but here’s what we think. We think it sure helps. If you have a passion, it’s a quick way to share it. If you have an idea, it’s a beautiful way to communicate it quickly to others. If you’re going through a trial, you can find thousands of people to pray for you. I for one am the biggest fan of real-in-the-flesh-offline living and growing in all of these areas as well, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the massive fruit that can be found when I share what I’ve got on the world wide web. You have the freedom to quit the internet, but it’s not going anywhere, so why not ask God to help you and funnel it instead?

    We’d love to help. Let’s talk in the comments. 

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    make your online life mean something

    At Influence, we often say “make your online life mean something.” Over the past fifteen years or so, my time on the internet has looked like instant messaging, fact checking, news gathering, online shopping, facebook stalking, blog reading, google searching, image pinning, email checking, and recipe collecting. I can’t even guess the hours that have been spent on the World Wide Web.

    We’re all online.

    If you are online, then chances are you have been sucked down a few rabbit trails. You have clicked link after link, until you’ve forgotten why you hopped on your computer in the first place. You may have glanced up and wondered where all that time went (?!). And perhaps you closed your laptop down with that nagging feeling that you just wasted a bit of your life.

    So what does a catchphrase like, “Make your online life mean something” really mean? First, Influence is here to resource you.

    The experts we put in front of you for an hour-long online class can propel you to grow in all sorts of ways, like Bible journaling, or renewing your mind, or writing that ebook.  It might mean that you connect with other women on our private forums to safely discuss topics dear to your heart or ask questions that need answers.  Maybe you need a resource like our monthly case studies to get an insider’s look at how brave, industrious Christian women are walking boldly online and off.

    Second, Influence can help you find the women who will stand behind you.  We host community groups, filled with women meeting together online to pursue a common goal, like healthy living, running a small business, adoption, becoming a better writer, or walking through grief.  Sometimes you come to our site just to write down a tender prayer request and know that our prayer team is walking alongside you during a difficult season.

    Third, you can travel to Indianapolis at the end of September and turn your online friends into real-life friends at The Influence Conference.  You can meet that speaker/author/writer/instagrammer you’ve admired from a distance and have a conversation! You can bring your best friends and have a weekend of authentic community under the banner of the gospel.  You can party together, eat meals together, sit through sessions together, and stay up late in your hotel rooms talking about life together.

    When we say, “make your online life mean something,” it doesn’t mean that the only valuable things that happen are online, like blogging or social media or an e-business. It means that if you spend an hour online, we want you to walk away from your computer refreshed and encouraged. We want you to be reminded that God has given you influence right where you are, and that other women will walk alongside you (from around the globe) to help you pursue Jesus, love others, and work for the Lord, rather than for men.

    As the Content Manager at Influence, I’ve noticed we have this intersection of Life and Strategy, Online and Off. While we resource you in all the different combinations, I’m sure there is one that speaks most to you. Do you need Strategies Online, like blogging basics or setting healthy boundaries? Or are you focused on becoming more Strategic Offline, like being smart with money or the basics of publishing?  Do you want to learn how to be a Life-giver Online, like ministering to women or inspiring your Instagram followers? Or are you in a season of lots of Life lived Offline, and we can remind you of your feminine influence or walk with you through overcoming disappointment?

    The Influence Conference plays out in the same way.  You can choose – Life or Strategy, or mix and match.  And of course with your ticket purchase, you’ll get access to all the audio recordings after the conference.  So you can listen to your favorite session over and over, and you won’t miss out on any of the amazing speakers we have lined up for you this year.

    So, your influence is not about becoming a “somebody” online or gaining followers. It is about using the Internet for good. Influence is about intentionally choosing to surround yourself with like-minded women who can spur you on under the flag of the gospel. The conference is all about an intensive weekend to dig in to what God has for us as modern women, who are online, and who want to invest ourselves in his kingdom work. Doesn’t that sound so much better than frittering away hours online?