Scanning TIME’s current roster of the 25 most influential people on the internet does not give me much hope for the future of our society. I mean, when a beauty vlogger (something I was unaware existed until today) is counted among the most influential people in what is ostensibly our most important public square, the internet, well, we’re probably doomed.
In choosing who made the list, “TIME evaluated contenders by looking at their global impact on social media and their overall ability to drive news.” Predictably, the parameters exclude thoughtful people like Nancy Pearcey, Albert Mohler, and Roger Scruton, to list just three thoughtful, articulate individuals out many who should be shaping society to a larger degree than they are. Instead, we get James Charles, the aforementioned beauty vlogger; the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle); and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The unranked list also includes such intellectual luminaries as the South Korean pop-supergroup BTS, stripper turned rapper Cardi B, and a teen star named JoJo Siwa whose claim to fame is “wearing bright colors and playing with unicorns.”
Look, I have nothing against JoJo Siwa, at least, I don’t think I do. But being 16 years old and singing catchy, optimistic pop tunes while dressed in intentionally eye-grabbing ways should not elevate someone to the position of influential. TIME’s inclusion of the young Nebraskan tells me that our society has inverted in how influence is derived. Instead of recognizing that wisdom comes with experience, we are now led by children.
TIME has included a variety of people who sail far above the trite and silly, though. But the inclusion of people like Ben Shapiro, Yashar Ali, and Rahaf Mohammed—the brave young lady who risked her life to expose the mistreatment of women at the hands of the Muslim government of Saudi Arabia—only serves to highlight how total pop-culture’s domination of our society is.
I’ve enjoyed listening to Shapiro, and have learned a thing or two from the conservative talking head. Likewise, even in disagreement, I find Yashir Ali to be a thoughtful reporter. However, those two should be far down the list of societal influencers. They haven’t earned their stripes yet, nor have they elevated public discourse and thought to a degree of being thought of as one the world’s 25 most influential people. They are a part of pop culture. Society needs thoughtful men and women to inform and lead us who are not caught up in the here-today-gone-tomorrow unsubstantial landscape of pop culture. Sadly, though, considering the trajectory of society and the all-consuming nature of social media, we are probably doomed to a continued devolution of influencers. I guess we should just be thankful that Ben Shapiro made TIME’s list.