Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Social Media and Fainting by Numbers

Once upon a time, before even the Baby Jesus was a twinkle in the Father's eye, people first grunted and then spun out loquacious and erudite conversation with one another. Then, as the human capacity for invention increased, we started faxing papyri to one another and making use of the telephone. In the mano-a-monkey interaction, we learned how to pucker and wave our arms about to convey greater meaning to our grunts and tics. And so, dear readers, communication was born. 

Evening and morning. The first social-media. 

The measure of 'success' in that world was a reciprocal response, a reaction, a new friendship. That said, the moment was had and it vanished for ever. A word was whispered then never to be heard again. A smile stopped a heart-beat but was forgotten. The communication was transient, the effect lasting. 

And so it came to pass that there came the Wise Men (and Ladies) who, by their efforts, gave rise to the Dawn of the Gadget. God saw and knew that it was good. Evening and morning - the second social-media. During the geeky revelry, there came a serpent - its name was Wikio, and it was hell-bent on wreaking unholy havoc in the Eden of the Gadget world of Parlay. The doe-eyes gadgeteers installed the widget unto their bloggies and partook of the Forbidden Fruit - the age of innocence collapsed and so it happened that those caught in the new world of social media could quantify their activity. 

In other words, social media in the present age can give you numbers and reports. I get emails telling me who I have 'spoken' to, with what effect, under what level of reach and to which extent of influence. The serpent Wikio was quickly joined by the demons Klout and Feedjit, then the arch Leviathan Empire Avenue. All these things are, in one form or another, measuring devices. They chastise you when you have said too little, and reward you when you have been busy. For competitive men like me, it is like having an aggressive Mistress (not that I have the first idea how that would feel, you understand). I sometimes find myself making inane comments on Twitter because my Klout number fell, or posting some drivel on here because my Wikio number was lower than a snake's belly.

This is dangerous. I know I am not alone, but it is very compelling to those of us who care how we are perceived and received. Being social, in all its facets, is vulnerable under the auspices of self-measure. The much lamented Church Mouse used to post monthly the Wikio blog rankings, and the comments confirm that we bloggers and Tweeters really do care if we are successful in what we do. Gain is great; slump or decline is mortal tragedy. I regard this is a problem, and one I am trying to resolve. My rankings buttons will start to go as I try to be sure in my mind (and allow you the same) that I am doing what I do online for right reason, not simply for numerical success!


  1. Perhaps if you read other people's blogs more often you would discover that your ratings are higher than you might think.
    Merely putting out an occasional post and not commenting in return on your received comments, or commenting on other people's posts, makes you a less 'visible' blogger than formerly.
    Just saying!.

  2. Well, David, I offer myself in the role of aggressive mistress. Not quite in the way you had intended, perhaps, but as a school marm of the old-fashioned sort, armed with a hairbrush (on second thoughts, better delete the hairbrush).

    As you know, I am one of your shareholders on Empire Avenue, invested 'to the max', as they say. Of late, I have noticed you taking a somewhat lofty and disdainful view of the sordid workings of the market place. I had been wondering how to remind you that your investors were relying on you to keep your nose to the grindstone, or else warn us that you were about to go on a cerebral walkabout.

    So, do tell us, do you advise us to sell up and search for another wage-slave? Or should we simply hold on in the hope that you will rejoin us on earth at some point in the not too distant future.

    I think I will bet on the latter...

  3. A very balanced view, as always. Perhaps the problem is that we can forget we are dealing in 'media', where the highs and lows alternate in quick succession. Yesterday's insightful blog post or witty tweet is soon forgotten. I suspect it is harder for 'professional' speakers like yourself: the clergy are expected to voice opinions whereas those of us lower down the chain can keep quiet and even be thought profound(ish) for doing so.

  4. I blog for the sheer love it and don't worry too much about the rankings, and the gadgets and what have you. I used to be addicted to all this, but have weened myself off.

    Having said this, someone Tweeted me early this morning to let me know that I'd been knocked off the top spot on Wikio by an atheist website. Now I will admit, I would rather have been knocked off by a Christian blogger!

    But that's just my bias ;-)

  5. In the words of Kenneth Williams - "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity."

  6. I took the counter off my blog for exactly this reason. Then I discovered Blogger's own stats. woe is me, for I am undone.

  7. Preach it brother! I struggle with a lot of the same issues myself, and it was one thing that caused me to give up blogging a couple of years back. But in case you were curious I posted the Wikio rankings on my blog this morning (before reading this).

  8. Thanks to you all, and the the pistol-whipping Ma'ams! Point received!

    I ached over this last night when I should have been sleeping, and I think I may have been projecting a little. Since I started this new role, I have found only a fraction of the time to write compared to before. The Stats are, in many ways, an all too painful reminder that I am (as Ray eloquently, and brutally puts it) neglecting my friends.

    Lower numbers, greater neglect ...

    I appreciate all your comments, that all said. And Sr, never place me above you! I think that you are a saint, and are already sanctified in the House of Cloake as the Patron Saint of Blogging.

  9. Don't worry David. You've got an audience, hanging on your every word. Some, like Laura, betting on your success.

    I must admit that I blog sporadically and spend an inordinate amount of time reading others blogs and commenting on them. There is no ratings for comments though.

    I've binned Klout and all of the rest as it was just taking to much time and as I blog on a specific journey of discernment, not a lot happens at any one time.

    But keep up the good work and hopefully you will be restored to your rightful place in the blogger lists.



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