Some people are willingly having their lives tallied and quantified via their mobiles. The stats are everywhere, how many Facebook friends have you got? How many Twitter followers, how many likes on that post, how many retweets? Fitness trackers like Endomondo, Nike+ and Strava let you post your times for the walk to work or that bike ride and compete with your friends, the site Fitocracy even lets you directly battle against others for who gets fittest first by completing challenges against each other. Where have you checked in on Foursquare? When and where you have you used a condom? (the latter could be open to exaggeration).
Almost every part of your life can be tracked, logged, rated and compared with friends and strangers, your whole life becoming a competition without a prize other than feeling that you’ve achieved more than someone else, the bragging rights rather than the rewards of the enjoyment of the exercise, the outdoors or just feeling better in yourself (exercise has been shown many times to improve peoples’ mood). On the other hand studies have shown that such competitive apps can also encourage people to exercise, and of course it can be useful to keep track of your fitness.
The other side of the coin are the stats that tell you whether you’re reaching people with what you want to say.
Once you start blogging, or sharing your pictures on Flickr or videos on YouTube something strange often happens. You start out thinking “I’m not bothered if nobody reads it, well, I’m happy if just one person sees it.” Soon though you see the stats page and out of curiosity you look at it. The first time you see a blip on the line your heart jumps a little as the thought that you’ve made a connection with someone, then comes the wonder of the fact that the person who looked at what you’d posted isn’t your mum or dad, your friend down the road or anyone else on Facebook but someone on the other side of the world.
Then there’s the first “Like” or first follower which gives you the knowledge that you’re doing something right. You naturally value what you’ve created but now someone else does too. Once you have followers you start to feel the need to give them something in return, to create something they’ll appreciate. You could experience the rollercoaster of emotions; maybe anxiety that you haven’t posted in a while, doubts about what you’ve created when you don’t get any views but then your next post receives a flurry of likes and comments and that warm feeling of contributing to the world in your own way returns.
There’s no escaping the stats, they’re everywhere.