Have We Reduced our Self-Worth to a Beggarly Integer?

Yesterday I had lunch with two very special women in my life. A shout out to Marnie and Lisa! I am grateful for the two of you and the ever-inspiring conversations we seem to ignite.  We discussed a lot of things, but one particular part of a conversation has been gnawing at my mind. We pondered for a moment on how different Social Media platforms would be without the “numbers.” You know, those dopamine enhancing numbers at the top of the page……your number of followers, how many you follow, how many likes, dislikes, re-tweets, pins etc…. What if those numbers were not displayed, or there was a redact mode? What if we kept posting and sharing but without a conscious awareness of gluing those numbers to our self-worth or fallacious strive for on-line popularity? Would it feel different? Isn’t this “number” imprisonment? Is that meager number changing the attitude we have of ourselves? Is it changing the way we behave?


We are being held captive to an integer! Thank goodness there is no such thing as negative followers or we would really be in self-deprecating territory.


We cling to numbers as evidence of our outcome, our success, our self-admiration not just on social media. We reluctantly step on the scale in our bathroom and cringe at that number, or pride-fully boost our egotism if the number is in our favor. We base our fighting strength on our white count, or compare ourselves to a life-expectancy statistic. Our cholesterol level. How many steps we take in a day. The number that is in our bank account.  Age. Time. Time left. Time passed. Calories. GPA. Mile time. Books to read. Books read. Seconds holding a handstand. Seconds to hold breath underwater. Minutes spent in meditation. Do I have enough? Am I enough?  Is this how we are documenting our happiness? Quantitatively.


Now I do realize that we don’t need to grapple with even a flirtation of imagining a world without numbers. It would be chaos. And, numbers are awesome! There is so much that can be measured in numbers. Numbers can help us set goals and assess our progress. They can tell us the exact date, time and GPS location to view a total eclipse! But what I am asking we contemplate is how much we relate to ourselves in a numerical world. Do we invoke our “me-plan” because a number is grand, or isolate and feel repugnance because a number is subjectively insufficient? How are we equating our self-worth to a number on social media? Can these numbers help us examine ourselves and take a look at the decisions we are making?


Some go to great lengths to “follow” people with the intention of gaining “followers” and then once we bite the hook and “follow” them, they delete us. Let’s think about this for a moment. Are these the same people who scoff at mean girls…you know like “Heathers,” or are emphatically disapproving of people who are scornfully derisive to them or their children? Do they feel so incomplete and stuck in a barren life? Are they better than us? I don’t know. But it feels empty and listless. Would the behavior change if the “numbers” were extinguished? Would kindness ensue and self-esteem and confidence of just sharing joy….well because I have joy and want to share it? Not because I need a number to reinforce that I enjoyed hugging a pug. That would be a question right….did I enjoy hugging the pug? Well it seems so because 47 others thought it looked joyful. Phew! That feels better. Doesn’t it?


Obviously I am guilty of getting sucked into these numbers too. I am a social media participant. My ego creeps in when a re-tweet happens or thumbs point north. I have caught myself ruminating over a post and check and re-check to see if someone else has seen it, liked it, commented on it. This is insane behavior, right? We do recognize this right? 


I would encourage you to start posting out of love, not a number. If you are being the whole you, the real you. keep posting and sharing and doing things that show us all of you. But do this out of a responsibility to be genuine and to share love. Use the platform for authenticity, connection and positivity. If you stay on your path and illuminate your uniqueness and keep doing what you love, your followers will be true. So don’t worry about the number. Please don’t be disingenuous and follow someone with a hope of being followed back. This is empty and what leaves us feeling so dissatisfied with social media. Follow someone because you are interested in what they do, what they have to say, or show you. Follow someone because you care that they ran and set a goal and followed through with it, not because you are looking at their finish time. It is a good tool if used correctly, but can be our worst enemy if we use it mendaciously. What matters are the experiences that are collected and shared, the genuine connections that are retained or blooming.


The point is to not eliminate numbers, but to be aware of how we are affected by them. Are we falling into the trap of defining ourselves by them?


Our lives are measured in love, not numbers! “In the end, these are the things that matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” –Buddha  


Can we let go of the numbers in our lives for a day?