Who influences you? Who is your role model?
Recently I had an email from a parent that asked some questions about what we were teaching students about their online presence. While we do cover this topic in numerous settings it made me stop and think more about how our online presence has changed and in turn, how that has changed us and in particular, how much social media is changing our students.
An article I read recently suggested that 45 percent of the world’s population uses social media and that one of the by products of this use has been the rise of influencers, social media users that persuade members of their audience to do something like buy a product, go to a particular place or to lobby politicians on an issue. These social media influencers acquire followers through celebrity, special skills and/or knowledge, and the most important influencers are those that have a wide base of support across several social media platforms- i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. According to the Influencer marketing hub, the eight biggest influencers in 2020 were; Cristiano Ronaldo; Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian West and Beyonce.
Prior to social media we may have referred to these people as role models. The term role model was introduced by Robert K. Merton. Merton says that individuals compare themselves with “reference groups” full of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires. The term has passed into general use to mean any “person who serves as an example of a “positive behaviour”.
Whether you are a crazy wannabe or a quiet admirer of a celebrity influencer or sporting star the fact remains that just about every one of us has someone whom we identify with, we idolise, and someone we respect. Role models are important. They can help us become the person we want to be and inspire us to make a difference. Choosing wisely means that you are influenced positively and the role model will help you be the best person you can be. However, not everyone makes wise choices with respect to their role models and the attitudes and behaviours “meanness” that we often see on Reality TV programmes can be normalised and reflected in day to day interactions.
Our challenge as a Catholic school in the tradition of Mercy is to role model the Gospel values through our words and our actions. The legacy of Catherine McAuley provides us with an amazing framework for living. She found a way, despite the challenges of her time, to carry out the works of mercy, and to proclaim the Gospel message of mercy and hope. As Catherine McAuley was sent in her time, we too are sent by God to bring the good news. We are called to shine the spirit of mercy upon all people we encounter by providing Awhinatanga (Service) Aumihi (Respect), Tika, (Justice), Manaakitanga (Care) and Aroha (Compassion). We need to work together as a community to help our students believe in themselves, fulfil their potential, and be their own role models. 
In the words of Catheine McAuley –
Me whakakā to wairua kia kite a iwi katoa
You should be a shining lamp, giving light to all around you
 http://www.womenswork.org/girls/What do you want to be when you grow up?