Concrete Whoremongerson August 22nd, 2011 at 2:43 pm
Those fuckin’ cocksuckers.
I can’t get numbers out of my head these days. They jump up and down on my brain, digging their pointy-sharp integer fingers into the backs of my eye sockets, slamming their fat numeric asses against the sides of my skull until I feel like screaming:
“NO! NO! ABSOLUTELY NO MORE OF THIS SHIT! I AM A WRITER! I THRIVE ON LETTERS, WORDS, SENTENCES, SYNTAX! NUANCE AND GREY AREA, SUBTLETY AND ACTION! I DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR UNCHANGEABLE DEFINED VALUES, YOU LITTLE CONCRETE WHOREMONGERS!”
Admittedly, this may be taking it a little far, but today I already have (in the chilling words of Stephen King) a tummyache, and the numbers are just making it worse. They shove and tug at my gag reflex until I want to vomit up every math class I ever took, stare at me with their beady little zeroes until I want to scratch out their evil eyes from ads in the newspapers, yammer at me incomprehensibly from ESPN in their endless droning monologue of arcane stats until I want to kick in the goddamn TV screen.
But more importantly, when it comes to Google Analytics and IMDB’s StarMeter and Twitter’s Followers/Followings/Your Tweets/etc. — I want to fuck them right up the ass with a yardstick.
(Which is 36 inches long. Bloody frogballs! See? I’ve been infected!)
Here’s the problem with trying to maintain a “professional presence” on the InterWeb: you have to deal with numbers. And the irony is, I used to love math. I used to be really good at it. I took Intermediate Calculus at college as an elective (okay, sure, I dropped the class before I could fail it — trying to find “limits” using the concept of “infinity” made me bleed from the ears — but at least I tried).
Except now web statistics have, for me, sucked out every last drop of spinal fluid from the Joy of Numbers.
Because they’re not just numbers anymore. Real numbers in their purest state are only quantifiers. Got a bunch of apples in a barrel? Numbers will tell you how many. Bunch of monkeys in a barrel? Numbers. Bunch of monkeys wearing togas in a barrel? (I don’t know why monkeys might wear togas, but if they did, numbers could tell you how many togas they’re wearing.)
But not these days. When it comes to the web, numbers mean something now, or they imply something, or they signify something, or they predict something — they’re only indicators. Of how “high” your status is in The Business, of how popular you will be, or could be, of how well your page or tweet or blog is being received.
Because you can’t just look at Google Analytics and say, “Hey, great! 286 people stopped by my blog today!” and that’s it. Hell no. Analytics tells you that one topic draws more viewers than another topic. (Extrapolation: I should write more about the first topic.) IMDB tells you that you have more name recognition within The Business than you did two years ago. (Extrapolation: I have been successful in raising my profile, and should keep trying to raise my profile in order to get more work in The Business.) Twitter tells you that a drugged-out former-teen-queen slag has 1,302,296 more people Following her than you do. (Extrapolation: Take more drugs to be popular.)
No, numbers aren’t just numbers anymore.
They’re histories. They’re suggestions. They’re judgments.
And keeping up with them all, not to mention trying to act on their conclusions, is enough to make you nauseous.
But today’s the day I make my stand.
I hereby renounce the responsibility of tracking myself — concomitant with any urge to alter my behavior in order to sway these thrice-damned numbers either way.