On Tuesday night, some of the world’s most influential people gathered together for a TIME 100 event in London and agreed that, for better or worse, social media has changed our lives — and our livelihoods.
The event saw several TIME 100 alumni, selected by the editors of TIME as some of the world’s most influential people in finance, philanthropy, activism and the arts, gather together in London’s Shard to hear an august panel discuss how technology influences the influencers.
The panel — which was moderated by TIME International Editor Bobby Ghosh and featured architect Zaha Hadid, billionaire and philanthropist Victor Pinchuk, supermodel and activist Liya Kebede, and chef René Redzepi — quickly found common ground when everyone began discussing how digital technology had shaped their lives. Each of the panelists agreed that social media, especially, had guided the way their industries worked.
Supermodel turned maternal healthcare activist Liya Kebede said that social media has given activists the opportunity to spread their messages further than ever. “Every minute one woman dies of pregnancy or childbirth complications and 90 percent of those deaths are preventable with basic healthcare and medical access, so for us the biggest issue is how do you get that message out there,” she said. “And really, social media is solving most of our problems. You don’t have to wait long [to get the message out], it’s inexpensive, and the accessibility is incredible.”
Chef Redzepi, who owns the Michelin-starred Denmark restaurant Noma, wasn’t quite so optimistic about social media’s ubiquitousness, noting with exasperation that now “with smart phones, no one ever dines alone anymore.” When moderator Bobby Ghosh pressed him on whether this distracted people from the food, Redzepi replied simply: “Yes.” But Redzepi did admit that he too had a smart phone and conceded that photos from inside his restaurant had been circulated around the world, thanks to sites like Instagram and Twitter.
Others agreed that the direct interaction that social media allows, had an effect on their work. According to Zaha Hadid, the criticism of her architecture provided by social media is inescapable. “My office, they try to protect me from bad news when people don’t like something [I did],” she said. “But I come across it because all my friends send it to me and I find out.” Yet she doesn’t view the feedback as a negative. “That is very important for us as architects, that there is a discourse between us and our client,” she said. “Because your client is no longer one person. Your client is your city.”
The panel’s theme was set by TIME’s newly minted managing editor, Nancy Gibbs, who introduced the event and welcomed the guests. Describing the difference between power and influence, she explained, “Power rules with a fist. Influence rules with a finger.”