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What’s in a number?

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“The creator of the universe works in mysterious ways. But he uses a base ten counting system and likes round numbers.”

Scott Adams

Ah, numbers! They’re everywhere. You can’t escape them: from speed limit signs, to the clocks which run our lives, to our checkbooks and bank statements, numbers impact every aspect of our lives. You gotta love them. And, apparently, a lot of us do.

As a struggling writer, I have devoted a lot of time to networking via social media. Facebook seems to be one of the more popular platforms for people to network. If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, you’ve certainly seen how that site loves (dare I say, worships?) numbers. From how many “likes” a page/comment/picture has garnered, to how many friends/followers we all have, numbers are prominent, (dare I say?) even all-powerful.

We humans have a natural predisposition to large numbers: the more the better. More is better. But is it? I see many of my fellows chasing higher and higher numbers, or “likes”. They ride the emotional rollercoaster, up as the “likes” increase, down as people “unlike” their pages. At times I wonder if any of them get any writing done, as they seem so consumed with trying to raise their numbers: give-aways, special contests, “cover reveals”, all tied to “magic numbers”.

As I write this, my author page on Facebook has 649 “likes”. Technically speaking, 649 unique individuals like me and my work so much that they are willing to express it with a click of the mouse, ready to follow my every post with eager anticipation. Hungering for my latest piece of writing, eagerly anticipating my next publishing success. Technically.  The reality…?

The reality is that most of them probably haven’t bothered to read a single word I have ever written. That most of them don’t know even one single fact about me, as a writer or an individual. It’s a numbers game: “Like my page and I’ll like yours!” “Get me to 1000 “likes” and I’ll have a contest for free stuff.” Which is why I don’t take 649 very seriously. Whenever I post anything on Facebook, I can count on about a dozen or so regular people to comment/respond/like. It’s always the same ones. So, out of that 649, I can count on 12 or so as true followers. So, you see why I don’t get wrapped up in the numbers: they are meaningless. You might have 1000 “likes” or more, but what does that translate into real numbers? 100? 50? A dozen? None?

I admit, when I first started, it was exhilarating to see that “like” counter clicking ever upward and it was easy to get caught up in it all. But then I began to notice the disparity between “likes” and actual interactions. It didn’t take long to grow tired of the “numbers game”. For me, the only number that matters is that loyal dozen (The Following, as I call them!). It is very much a “quality-vs-quantity” issue. I hope I am pursuing quality.

Numbers are great, numbers are important. But some numbers are just numbers and nothing more. Want an important number to worry about? How about this one: How many words have you written lately?

Happy writing!


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