: a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way
Last week, when I first caught wind of Time magazine’s list of The Top 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014, I was taken aback. I learned that the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winners, Malala Yousafzai, Joshua Wong (who was the face of protests in Taiwan), and other history making and entrepreneur teens were grouped with peers like Keeping Up with the Kardashians costars Kylie and Kendall Jenner and the “King of Vine” himself, Nash Grier. The latter teens influences, on occasion, have been less than stellar. Dan Macasi, senior editor for Time magazine, defined influence by saying that it “isn’t always world changing,” yet it’s literal denotation, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, is “a person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way.”
The proverbial wisdom of Jaden Smith’s tweets and the six seconds of hilarity that ensue when Nash Grier gets in front of his camera are massive parts of our generation’s pop culture identity. However, it is necessary to take these contenders for Most Influential Teen of 2014 into context with their fellow candidates. Many of these candidates, in fact, are taking strides to change the world. The movers and shakers of this list include: Jazz Jennings, a fourteen-year-old transgender girl who advocates for trans visibility; Salma Kakar, the seventeen-year-old lead rider for the Afghan National Cycling Team whose goal is to represent Afghanistan in the Olympics to display how much Afghan women have progressed; and three girls from County Cork, Ireland– Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey, and Sophie Healy-Thow– who discovered a bacteria that could aid in ending the global food crisis. When these teens are taken into consideration, it is easy to see that while importance and changing the world are not necessarily the same, importance is indeed relative.
So, yes, every teen on the list is important in his or her own way, but it is imperative to understand that the “world changing” young men and women do hold more significance over the face of pop culture on this list. They are our future, and we are the future. Enjoy every aspect of pop culture because it is much of who we are as a generation– but know that influence in this context, much to Macasi’s disagreement, is more so about sculpting the future and carving our world to be better fit for equality and peace, than how many Twitter followers someone has.