On Sunday morning I woke up and immediately checked my smart phone, discovering it was 5:28am and upon unlocking it’s blindingly bright display I was captured by a world of numbers, notifications and calls for my attention.
Since last checked I’d received 8 emails of mixed validity and questionable sources, had 3 new followers on Twitter & 1 retweet of a tweet I’d retweeted and 7 notifications on LinkedIn, including an update that my profile viewers rose 11% to 391 views in the last 90 days.
I had received 1 new Whatsapp message, 2 text messages and of course the little red highlight that there were 2 Facebook notifications of no doubt, much importance and value.
Whilst making coffee I briefly checked my Twitter and Instagram follower counts in case I’d gained a new follower or 2 and because of course if I didn’t do this maybe they’d lose interest… right?
As the day went on I counted my steps and tracked the distance I covered, kept an eye on the numbers of calories I ate, the grams of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
At the TV prompt time I watched a programme I’d planned for and then at 5pm I fed the dog and whilst walking her I checked how fast we finished our route whilst I listened to an audiobook on 1.3x speed.
Everywhere there’s numbers and trackers of numbers and each one of them can be so damn addictive and also so damn hard to ignore.
Each one of them creates different feelings, different drivers and responses, but whether for better or worse, far too many of them have hooks into so many aspects of life.
And each one displayed on those wonderfully high-resolution and pocket sized screens….
Are each of these numbers counting my successes or are they a measure of my shortcomings?
Are the notifications popping up to make life easy and motivate me that I’m winning at some game I didn’t know I was playing or they just giving me a slight dopamine hit to kick me onwards into the day?
Maybe each connection, each counter, each number that’s displayed is part of my score for the day or towards my cumulative value in life?
Quite honestly, no. Not even remotely close.
Yes, each of these creates an easy way to engage with information and keep track of things that have significance to varying degrees.
Yes the notifications create easy ways to filter through the noise of the world and find the things that may actually be importance or interest.
But no, the numbers of people that a network classes as a connection to me, doesn’t even slightly reflect the numbers of people that I actually connect with or build true relationships with.
The size of the numbers and the scope of my virtual connections do not reflect my standing as a person nor does it allow me to measure my happiness, my sense of self worth or my emotional connectivity.
A counter of connections doesn’t score my value, it doesn’t track or measure how engaged I am with those people and things that truly matter. In fact it more often than not simply distracts from them.
The notifications that prompted my immediate attention didn’t create something of such value that warranted my attention to be taken, without pause, from those around me.
The bright little screens that create these gateways to a galaxy of numbers and notifications didn’t once offer something of value that was actually greater than the world around me if I’d chosen to connect with that instead.
Being truly connected is about so much more than just numbers of connections, about being fastest to acknowledge, learn of or comment on something or sharing your situation to those within that ecosystem with a photo rather than a conversation.
I love the technology and platforms that we have in our modern world, but sadly it too often creates blinkers that stop us from seeing the world through our own, unfiltered eyes.
Sometimes the only way to truly connect is to ensure that the connections that matter are protected and nurtured; those not just seen from a screen or counted against a display or an interface.
Experiences and emotions become so much more impactful when the resources, platforms and information we have at our fingertips is put firmly in 2nd place and when the present, the moment we live in right then and there is the most important thing in our day.