When one’s self-confidence is leased with an option to buy, as mine is, one looks outside oneself for: 1. Reminders that one ought to have, or to try out, this thing called self-esteem and 2. The nearest venue where one can find some.
Because without self-confidence, some say, one can not achieve great things, or any things. But immediately after sentences like that always comes the caveat: Be humble. Needle-across-the-record screech. From life’s start, we are asked to be philosophers negotiating the nuances of existence: Believe in yourself, humbly. Possess something that no one can give you. Walk softly, and chew gum at the same time.
I don’t believe in me. There, I said it. For forty years of life, when all that was required of me was to trust myself, believe in myself, meet or sometimes exceed expectations, I successfully fashioned places to hide and then hid. Now, I have accomplished some things in this life, there are some external indications of a life okay-lived, but jeesomelordmercy, it could have gone easier or better for me (some people have knitted their brow watching me careen through existence); “easier” could have killed me, though.
However, for all my self-confident proclaiming that I do not possess self-confidence, I confess that I am addicted to the external verification that I exist and that I am doing okay. There are too many ways of doing this available for someone like me who spends time typing on a keyboard that has Wi-fi. I wrote a little about it about six months ago: “I, Toward a Metrics of Me.” Do I know what I am doing, where I have been, where I am going, who I am with—who I AM, even?—without social verification, approval, disapproval, a certain number of thumbs-ups or stars or re-Tweets?
Oh, wait. There is no disapproval online. There is only approval or … silence. An absence of little blue thumbs pointing the way to Heaven or hitch-hiking there. The silence of zero stars. Page views: Zero, zilch, negatory.
The American corporate world introduced the idea of measuring everything, every dang thing, many decades ago, but in the late 1990s employees discovered that their employers were creating new ways, additional ways, to measure everything, and that their continued employment depended on successfully counting those things and presenting them in a package that looked honest. I remember my revulsion upon hearing the word “metrics” used in a sentence the first time. (For months, I heard the ghost-word “system” immediately after hearing the word “metric.”) The precise sentence I heard was, “We are using all available metrics,” and I quickly noticed that no one else at the meeting table was laughing, and that they were still scribbling notes more furiously than students in a freshman philosophy seminar. (“Do I need a soul by the end of this semester? What percentage of my grade will that be?”)
For a while, the number of documents I was actively working on was my key metric, or so I was told by my employer. Soon after, and without an announcement, this was changed to the total number of pages. It changed, often. For a year or two, I was publicly publishing the average number of pages per document completed per day. Then it was the actual pages per document per day. Illustrations were counted for a while, then they were not. The number of metrics used to measure my metrics was never itself added up and counted, unless that was my boss’ monthly metric for her boss.
Some time after that one, I was let go. A bad attitude has no metrics.
The social media revolution was long in coming and I enjoy it very much, but metrics have infiltrated our lives, even our fun-filled social lives. “How many ‘likes’ did that get?” Does my employment hinge on it? No? Why does it feel like it does?
When a celebrity or actually important person finds him or herself in an online controversy over something they published online, the number of re-Tweets of the news-worthy posting is supplied in news accounts about the contretemps. That number is a fact, but the fact that this number is available and can be reported does not actually make it a statistic, much less a statistic worth reporting.
Everything can be counted, after all. I can count the number of bags of candy in my local Wal-mart; that number is a fact, just not one worth doing anything with. One can count the number of facts not worth having, too.
Sadly, I find myself watching the likes and numbers of visits to this web site right here, the one in your hands, every night. “The Gad About Town” is not my employment, it is something I want to do and share. But the fine people at WordPress make the information so easy to find and digest. It is information, after all, and it looks like an impressive collection of live statistics, and it makes me want to have a boss to report it to every night. (So I Tweet it out sometimes, to attract more readers.) “This number of visitors read my work last night, but it is a smaller number tonight. Whycome is that, world?” Sad face.
Never before in my life have I known how many friends I have, but if I wanted to, I could look and see every morning in Blue Thumb World if the number of my online friends is larger or smaller than yesterday’s. Metrics.
Am I my numbers? Am I my metrics of me? Everything in the world can be counted, and that number can be known and disclosed, but more often than not this simple fact does not make it information. Not real information.
My self-confidence depends on it. See for yourself right here:
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 7 asks, “Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at?”