The Numbers Game
One of the things that I find disconcerting about the rise of social media and the nature of our digital connections is how easy it is to play the numbers game. Counting our followers, subscribers, Flickr awards, comments, contacts, likes, tweets, mentions, views, re-tweets. Then comparing our totals to others as a measure of our success and our talent or lack thereof.
Everything within the social media landscape is tabulated and charted in painstaking detail. Bounce rates, visitor loyalty, time on site, reach, followers. It is much too easy to analyze and compare; to see where we stand; to agonize over a downward trend.
Obviously, the reason we blog is to share – our words, our art, our heart. With each post, we are initiating a conversation. We click the Publish button, sending our words and images into the dark void of cyberspace. And then we wait. Wait for someone to comment. Wait for visitors. Wait for our numbers to go up.
Before I started this blog, I was a card-carrying member of the lurking majority. I rarely commented. Even though I was often moved, inspired, educated, challenged and awe-struck by the work of others. Work they shared so courageously, with humor and tears. Providing calls to action. Educating me to be a better photographer, a better person. Making me laugh. Giving me tools to solve problems. Improving my world.
And I failed to give back, to acknowledge, to participate in the virtual conversation.
Of course, now that I am the one putting the words and images out there, I realize that this is a two-way street. Every comment is more than a number – it is a connection. A way to engage. Something precious.
Even now, knowing all this, I sometimes still hesitate to comment. A post or Flickr image already has pages of comments and I say to myself – “What difference will my comment make? They already have enough.” Comparing numbers – mine to theirs; that ugly flair of envy.
Or I second-guess myself – thinking that I have nothing new to add; nothing of worth to say that hasn’t already been said in a superior way by others. And I sit, with hands poised over the keyboard, trying to come up with a clever contribution. As if clever is the same as honest. The same as a simple acknowledgement of what the words or images meant to me, saying thank you for touching my life today.
So, I do my best to ignore the numbers. To avoid comparisons. To participate in the conversation in a meaningful way. To be grateful each day that I have this amazing opportunity to connect with artists around the globe. To make a contribution, both with my words and images and by commenting on the work of others.
And to all of you who read my words and view my images, whether you lurk or comment, thank you. For being part of my “numbers”, my community, our conversation.
What about you? Do you find yourself obsessing about your “numbers”?