So I had a bit of fun this morning mocking up my Tumblr stats. Suffice it to say, I have a few more than nine followers on this blog. I am certainly thankful though that so many follow Strong Opinions and occasionally let me know that they like what I post. In that way, the validation is encouraging.
I have to admit however that it is a bit of a mystery as to how I acquired such a following of people over the past couple of years. While featured in the Tumblr tech section and a fairly regular poster of original content, most of my posts are longish text heavy articles that generally do not elicit much excitement or reblogs. Thus I have no idea who these folks are that follow or if they even bother to read, view, or listen to my ramblings. All I can tell at this point is that I am a big deal in Brazil. Seriously though, who are you people?
The point however of my self-mockery was to make a broader statement about the growing obsession with ourselves. Each successive generation seems to be more and more self-aware and self-interested. That, coupled with easier means to share that obsession, is a huge market. Some call it the quantified self movement. I simply refer to it as personal vanity metrics.
Many of us fall into the allure of such metrics and the need to compare and contrast with others. Sometimes it is in the vein of competition and sometimes it is for validation. Whatever the motivation, from the school grades, to athletic records, to game results, we all want to know what the score is. Social media simply feeds fuel to the motivation by letting one share instantaneously and distribute widely. And social media itself has become a competition with people obsessing over follower counts and likes and reblogs and other ways of measuring up your influence. Is it any surprise then that startups like Klout and Kred that measure social influence have sprouted up?
It is easy to scoff at the silliness of all this one-upmanship. The tweets and posts about follower counts is equally vacuous. In a way, I was having a bit of fun at the expense of folks like Stowe and Paul and Tumblr follower count posts (dear Stowe and Paul, it is all in good fun). However, it does speak to the overwhelming desire that wells up within most of us to measure ourselves and to see how we measure up. That is the powerful allure of games and why there was such excitement around gamification. Of course, once people started labeling it, the core idea got lost in a sea of buzzwords and self-proclaimed experts and overly complicated thinking. Hate the terminology, not the concept.
As more and more of our lives move online and more and more of our data floating around the Internet and in various databases, look for the market around personal metrics to explode. If it can be quantified, it will by hook or by crook be measured, analyzed, recycled, and put into beautiful dashboards that can be displayed on our screens, our iWatches, our gGlasses, and other as yet undiscovered interaction platforms. If we may seem excessively narcissistic now, who knows how much further this trend can go and how voyeuristic we can become as we share and dive into each other’s personal vanity statistics with abandon. Everything quantified may give comfort to those that find the order of numbers to bring surety, but it seems like it would be a cold world in the eyes of most.
As for me, I will keep my Tumblr follower count to myself.