Numbers Game

fullsizeoutput_5119Many years ago, I was in charge of the summer reading program at my church.  The idea was to encourage children to read during their summer vacation, so I would create a display to keep track of how many books the kids read and give them a reward when they had completed the program.  The program usually had a lot of kids, but one year only five signed up.  I wasn’t at all sure I wanted to go to so much time and trouble for only five children, so I called the church secretary to let her know I was going to cancel the program this year.  There was a brief pause, and then she asked, “But don’t you think those five kids deserve a reading program?”  And, of course, she was right.

Sometimes I think we live in a world where we put far too much value on popularity.  Social media encourages that, since success there depends on attracting huge numbers of followers and likes, and  we all know that a post “going viral” is considered the ultimate goal.

When I tune into the local news in the morning, I’m encouraged to join the thousands of others who follow that particular station.  They actually put that request across the bottom of the screen, right between the international news and the daily traffic report.  Things aren’t any better for those who get their news from the internet.  There, the stories seem specifically designed to get a reaction from the readers, because the goal is to get as many “clicks” and comments as possible. (I’m assuming in the hopes of attracting more advertising money.)  And the more outrageous the story, the more popular it is.  But that doesn’t mean it’s the news we actually need to know.

I refuse to name names, but I’m sure we can all think of several celebrities whose chief talent seems to be being a celebrity.  How they achieved that status, I don’t know, but it might have something to do with their ability to create viral posts, or say really outrageous things.

I remember when I told a friend I had just started a blog, and she immediately asked me how many followers I had.  I answered, with equal parts honesty and shame, “twelve,” and she changed the subject rather quickly.  That was over four years ago, and now I would have a very different answer to that question, and one that might not cause her to worry that she had asked an embarrassing question.  But you know what?  I’m not putting any more effort into my blogs posts these days.  I did the best I could then, and I’m doing the best I can now .  My blog may be a little more popular now, but I honestly don’t believe it’s any better.

I’m proud to say that I paid attention to the lesson that church secretary taught me, all those years ago.  I did go ahead with the reading program for those five children, and I put just as much effort into making it a good one as I did when lots of kids signed up.  Because when it comes to true quality, the numbers don’t count.

96 thoughts on “Numbers Game

  1. And right you are, Ann. If one spent the effort to show up, missing out on video games and the zoo, that kiddo very much deserved to be a recipient of your volunteerism. Moreover, one of those five kiddos might be the next James Patterson or Dr. Seuss. You may never know just how you touch another life. Good words. -Alan

    Liked by 4 people

    • I know, Alan! I was so glad that the secretary spoke up and made me reconsider. (She was like a second mother to me, and so I always listened to what she had to say.) Those five kids did deserve the reading program they had signed up for! And once I got it going, other kids signed up as well….but even if they hadn’t, it was worth the effort for those five.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. A friend years ago boasted of having over 1000 friends on FB. “Really, when is the last time you spoke to them or got together for lunch?” Numbers are cool, it’s nice to know someone is reading your words, but they truly mean nothing. Good post, Ann.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Great post, as always. Thank you for addressing the blog follower issue. To be honest, one reason I felt I needed to stop writing my blog was because all the “clicking” and “following” and social media “demands” started to feel overwhelming. I’m thinking of starting up again, and if I do, I’ll ignore the social media issues. I’ll just enjoy writing what I have to say, hope some people will relate, and leave it at that.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Believe me, I understand! The demands of blogging, especially if tied to social media, do become overwhelming. But then we just have to stop and think: will it really matter if I don’t visit each and every post of all the blogs I follow? If I don’t have time today to hit the like button, much less comment? And the answer, of course, is “no.” So just do what you can, and what you want to, and let go of the rest!

      Liked by 5 people

  4. For me, blogging is about the relationships, not the numbers. I know nothing about my stats, but I know a lot about the people I’ve connected with. Like with age…the numbers don’t count. Great post, Ann!

    Liked by 5 people

    • That is a very good way to look at it, Jill! Stats are not accurate anyway. Personally, I feel so happy if just one person says to me, “this post is just what I needed today.” Because that’s enough, right there. To know that I helped just one person. The rest is just gravy……

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Oh, Ann, I really needed this one! I’m new enough at this that I think I’m still “finding my voice,” so I’ve been looking at numbers to see if one “kind” of blog resonates more. I mostly want to bring some good news to people who are fretting about aging, but I kid myself if I think that’s the only reason the “numbers” matter. I’m working at just doing the writing with honest intent – finding my place to settle in – but I’m also wearing a bracelet that says, “believe” just to remind myself why I started it in the first place.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Trust me, just be yourself and the right readers will find you! As long as you make your blog “reader friendly” (easy to find and navigate once someone visits), you will find your niche. The best you can offer the world is your own, unique voice. So write from the heart and ignore your stats! The rest will all work out.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. My granddaughter loved the reading program at the Library. She was so proud of putting a sticker on for each book she read and then the certificate at the end. My son was also proud and thankful that I went to the trouble of taking her to the library to pick out and return books. It was actually a treat since I live so near the library.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Barbara! That’s the way these kids were too. They would track their progress around the display table each week, and were so thrilled when they completed the program. All they got was a certificate, and their name in a new library book (plus they were the first to check it out), but they were thrilled. It was so fun to run that program….I loved the enthusiasm of the children!

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  7. Yes! Great post, Ann. I actually have never looked at any of my stats. In my early years of blogging, I would get a notice from WordPress if I hit some sort of milestone. It never mattered. I just want to connect one-to-one with others. I’m not looking to compete or break any records. Thanks for saying it so well!

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    • You are so smart, Donna! The problem with looking at stats is they are never good enough. “I got a good number of views with this one, but not so many likes….” The real reward of writing a blog post is the satisfaction of knowing you did your best, and if just one person says that this post spoke to them and helped them. That’s all we really want…to make that connection with someone else through our writing!

      Liked by 3 people

  8. I remember when it was considered an attribute to be unique and not look or sound like everyone else. Popularity was considered bourgeois and uncool.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Well said. I am on Facebook, mainly because I like to learn more about the history of our area, keep up with friends (the real kind), see posts about extended family and follow the adventures of some travelling companions. But my goodness, what a cesspit that platform has become!!! Yes harsh words, but some of the comments and vile online conversations that are recorded there, are sad, dangerous and often totally incorrect. I worry about my grandchildren as they enter this world of “likes” and guage their worth by the number of followers they might attract rather than arming themselves with the self esteem needed to fend off trolls and haters. So yes, books are our lifeline…they connect me with my grandchildren, they start conversations, they awaken imaginations and more than ever, they provide a refuge from the frantic pace of modern media. Farmer Jane

    Liked by 7 people

    • I know! I also worry about kids being raised in this era of “likes” are everything! Parents use Facebook to brag on their kids…that’s so unhealthy. As for the online arguments, those are truly discouraging. I do hope books will always be a part of our culture. They are a lifeline indeed. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

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  10. Well said Ann, I often think if I only help even ONE person I have succeeded.

    Quality matters to me not quantity!

    And congrats on having more than four thousand followers, I haven’t read your very early posts but I do know you’ve always written from your heart and that’s what resonates 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  11. 1. This was a great post on “Stat consciousness” and I also enjoyed your replies to others. We all seem be following the same path. That might be because the true addict to numbers doesn’t have the time to reply.
    2. It seems every time I read one of your posts, I have to hit the “follow” button again. I have no idea how this will translate into your WP reader. I have seen several remarks in forums on this WP problem.
    3. I like the idea of reading print books although because of my traveling, the majority of my reading is on Kindle. I have an intuitive, not based on fact opinion, that reading on Kindle would not work in a summer reading program for younger kids, maybe for teenagers. I would be interested in hearing the experiences of those who tried using Kindle or similar devices in a reading program for the younger set.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry you have to keep hitting the follow button! I do know that WordPress has some glitches…at the moment I can’t see how many Facebook shares the posts get, although usually I can. And sometimes when I visit someone else’s post, the like button doesn’t show. I usually hit like just to let the author of the post know that I read the post. Which, of course, are even more reasons that we shouldn’t trust out stats, because they aren’t accurate. Far better to just write what we want, and not worry about how many views and likes we get!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I am glad you went ahead with just the five kids that year. I have always been an ardent supporter of quality. Truth be told, quantity is oftener than not made of stuff such as candy floss.

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  13. Thanks for this Ann. I needed it today. I sometimes get discouraged by my likes, particularly when I see how many people have read my blog and not commented or liked. We are all human, and that is dispiriting. But I have to continually remind myself why I started in the first place. Thanks again.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Please don’t let yourself get discouraged by likes or comments. Sometimes people read, but don’t feel comfortable commenting. Other times, people can’t “like” or comment due to some WordPress glitch. I have a friend who told me she has to create a new profile every time she wants to comment on my post if she does it from her computer, but she can comment if she reads in on her phone….so weird! And I know that on many blogs, the “like” button doesn’t pop up right away…it will say “still loading” forever, and people don’t always have the time to wait. That could be what’s happening to yours. On some bogs, I can’t even find a like button! So you see, those stats aren’t accurate!

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  14. The world we live in now seems to be all about numbers. My husband and I try to continuously educate and remind our kids that numbers may matter sometimes but not always. Yet, even as adults we can be sucked into the numbers game against our will especially in work where it is always about profits and progress. This often requires a kind of street smarts to play the game and yet emerge largely unscathed.

    It really makes us worry about the kids and their future.

    Liked by 6 people

  15. Some of my best memories of my young children was taking them to a summer reading program at a local library. We did this for years as we traveled from place to place with the military. Some parts of the country had great participation and others not so much but always the librarians and volunteers made it a rewarding experience.
    I think the problem with most people nowadays is that they really don’t read. Those who comment on my blog I know actually read it! I have found those connections rewarding and encouraging in continuing with my blog. Funny- the people who first encouraged me to start are never the ones that visit or comment. I hope they are still reading but at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter as I have gained from this experience.
    Ann, I always enjoy your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I used to love reading programs too, both when I was a child and when my own kids were young. I don’t know if libraries still do that or not, but I sure hope they do. It would encourage reading, and goodness knows, reading anything not on a screen these days is becoming a rare thing.

      That is odd that those who encouraged you to write a blog don’t read it! I have several friends and family who never read my blog, but the friend who really encouraged me to start it is a faithful reader. Then again, she probably knows I’d give her grief if she wasn’t! LOL!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Peter! I think that applies in all areas of our life…even if blogging and social media sometimes encourage us to forget that. But the success we achieve in blogging has to do with the chance to express our creativity in our posts and to connect with other people through our blog. My life has been very enriched by the “blogging friends” I have gained in the past four years. Thanks for being one of them!

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  16. I really like your down-to-earth message here, Ann, and I’m glad to read that you went ahead with the reading program. I’d wager that you ended up enjoying it just as much, even with only five kids. And each one probably loved getting 1/5th of your attention!

    Liked by 3 people

    • You’re right, less kids means that the ones who do participate get much more individual attention. Yet another reason to go for quality over quantity. And as the secretary reminded me, those five kids did deserve the best reading program I could give them!

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  17. We have gotten too obsessed with liking things. I’ve heard of people who will take something down if it doesn’t get enough likes. When did our self esteem become so entwined with clucks and swipes?

    Liked by 4 people

    • Exactly! Not only are we saying that our work is only valuable if enough people read and “like” it, we are also pinning our self-esteem on a system of recording and reporting stats that is riddled with glitches. How do you know someone who hits “like” actually read the post? And how do you know how many people read the post in their email (which they can do if they follow our blogs), which doesn’t count as either a view or a visit? The only answer is to write the best post we can, and then ignore the stats as best we can.

      Liked by 3 people

      • It’s funny that you say that because I resubscribed to some of my fave blogs via the new feature that allows you to follow them- it comes up in my notification feed, and I do wonder if people think I’m not reading….because I’m overly worried that someone will be offended in some way.

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  18. I love this so much. I was having this dilemma back in February when I was teaching a 4-week class on “nurturing your feminine leadership.” Only 2 people signed up. While I was a little disappointed, I showed up in the best way I could for those women. As it turns out, a couple of month later one of them has signed up for my coaching services. We never know what might come of giving generously, and I thank you for this reminder.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Clearly, she appreciated the effort you put into that class! Which made it all so worth it, didn’t it? If we can touch/help just one person, our efforts are more than worth it. Thanks for sharing that story!

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  19. Years ago, my girlfriend at the time and I braved a Minnesota blizzard to go to a small coffee shop that offered live entertainment. That night, a folk singer was featured and we were his only audience. He put on a great show.

    I think about that often.

    Sometimes writing is like being a busker on a lonely street. What matters is not the performance, not the audience.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I agree…the performance matters so much more than the audience. And we can only control what we put out there, not how people react to it. Which means that knowing we did our best has to be good enough, I think.

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  20. Absolutely. I remember one piece of advice I read when I first started blogging, and it was about quality. Basically, create quality blog post and people will read. I think your blog has such quality ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  21. I hear what you’re saying Ann.
    I ‘ve had people visit my site and give
    me 10 Likes in under one minute. Or give
    me a direct, Following your Blog,
    without giving any Likes. They just want me
    to Follow them back. Not going to happen.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, I know! That happens to me, too. I don’t think they realize that when a blogger gets email notifications of likes and comments, we can see exactly what time they were made. And we’re smart enough to know that no one can read twenty of our posts at exactly 5:21! It just annoys me when someone does that, and I certainly don’t follow them back either.

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  22. This is one of those times I think, “I’m glad I’m old.” I’m not very involved with social media, other than my blog, and don’t pay much attention to stats. My self-worth does not rise and fall with the number of Likes I get. I love when I write a post that gets a good discussion going, but I agree with you that I worked just as hard on my older posts written when I had no – or very few – followers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, our stats have nothing to do with the quality of our posts at all, so why should be worry about them? Honestly, the only reason to worry is if we are trying to sell advertising on our blogs to make money, and you have to have about 20,000 followers to do that. Somehow, I don’t see that in my future! LOL!

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  23. This is such a timely post Ann. The pressure of numbers can completely derail a person from his main objective. After I moved to a paid domain, I was under I put myself under tremendous pressure to increase views and followers. I binge watched videos on how to increase your followers. All this had an impact on the quality of work that I published. The day I decided to stop worrying about it, I started enjoying (again) the process of writing. I then realized how much I had missed the worry-free writing process.
    So now, when someone asks me, I tell them I am a blogger with not many subscribers. But I enjoy the process of writing and so I publish one blog every week.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yes, trying to attract readers can drive us crazy! And make us second-guess our work. But blogs are really like so much else in life: if you don’t have to live on the income you make from it, then the numbers really don’t matter at all. What matters is the joy of creating something new, the relationships that we form with others who have similar interests and that we are proud of our own work. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

      Liked by 2 people

  24. Well said Ann and that applies to all areas of life. It really isn’t about the numbers is it, yet so many get caught up in it. You know how I feel about blogging and the interactions, that’s what it’s all about. Good on you for teaching those kids and for keeping your blog authentic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know, we have always been too worried about numbers, and all the technology that rules our lives these days seems to make it even worse. Popular isn’t always better, and sometimes less is truly more. Once we see the value in each individual, it makes it easier to stop worrying about those silly numbers! Thanks for the comment, Miriam!

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  25. Happy Mother’s Day Ann! I agree with you 100%. I once taught a Sunday school class that only had an average of three or four children on a weekly basis. I have taught large Sunday school classes. The funny thing is, I could do so much with that small class size…so many great projects. And once, we showed up at church on a New Year’s Day morning and were the only people there. I told the pastor that he could go home since were the only ones! He said, “absolutely not!”. It was a beautiful service and one I will always remember. Yes, quality over quantity, every time.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you! And happy Mother’s Day to you too! I agree that it is often those small gatherings that are the most important, and the ones that we remember the most. Good for your pastor for going ahead with the service with just your family!

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  26. I’m always so glad I save your posts to read when I have the time to catch up. You make an excellent point. I’m sure those kids had a great summer reading program too. As for blogging, I’m paying less attention to my stats because when I’m busy, I simply don’t have the time to generate views and likes. No point in getting worked up about them during those times.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly! Sometime we simply aren’t able to put a lot of time into our blogs, and of course the stats will reflect that. Other times, there is a glitch so we think less people are reading our posts, when that may or may not be true. By their very nature, the stats aren’t particularly accurate, so why worry about them at all? And I don’t know about you, but some of my posts that I like the best are the ones that were also the least popular with my readers. But I still think they were my best!

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  27. I agree! I’ve occasionally attended speeches or presentations where there were only a few other people attending in addition to myself. Sometimes the speaker does a wonderful job in that situation; other times the speaker seems to write us off and not value that we wanted to hear him or her because there aren’t lots of additional people there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, and isn’t it sort of degrading when we realize that someone doesn’t think we are worth the effort, simply because there aren’t enough of us? That should never be how we judge things…I’m glad the church secretary helped me figure that one out!

      Like

  28. Very well said. I think there’s far too much emphasis on numbers, especially when it comes to blogging & social media. It makes it competitive yet completely meaningless when it’s not genuine, and value of a person or a post or anything else can’t be captured by a number of ‘likes’. You’re right about celebrities too, far too many seem to make a career from just flaunting and being ‘popular’.
    Caz xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I hate to see how much value we put on the popularity of our work, whether it be likes on our posts, or followers, or whatever. The competition is completely meaningless, as you say. Some of my favorite books were never on the best-seller lists, for example. But they are very, very good, and I enjoy reading them immensely. That’s all that matters in the end!

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  29. Thanks for these very wise words. Often when I preach to a small congregation on a Sunday I feel a bit disheartened. Then I realise that I ma benefitting (hopefully) those who have come along.

    Therefore, the ‘numbers game’ is very corrosive to all sorts of worthwhile activities. Perhaps, we need to coin a new phrase – If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing!

    Every blessing with your continued writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, churches get caught up in the “numbers game” just as much as bloggers, don’t they? But there especially, I think we need to remember that ever single person counts, and a small congregation is just as worthy of a good sermon as a large one. So you are indeed doing good work and your ministry is worthwhile.
      And thank you for the kind comment!

      Like

  30. As always I think you’ve hit the nail right on its head, Ann! I’m so glad the church secretary said what she did and that those five kids got to enjoy your course. 😊
    It is becoming a strange new world where numbers are getting more important than the quality of our respective works. I know that early reaction from your friend only too well – when I tell people that I’m blogging just for the fun of it and the friendships I form they tell me that i should take it more seriously if I want to have success. But what I ask you is success? Worrying that your stat numbers are falling? Feeling so much pressure that you can’t come up with new ideas? Thinking a thousand likes are more worth than one wonderful comment? I don’t think so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know!! If we had ten thousand followers, but didn’t enjoy what we wrote and didn’t have the ability to connect with our readers, the world would consider us a success. And yet, that’s no kind of success at all… I consider my blog successful because it allows me to write what I want to write and has introduced me to wonderful people all of the world who have enriched my life in so many ways. THAT’s success, no matter how many followers/likes/comments I get.
      Thanks, by the way, for being one of those people who have been a gift to me!

      Liked by 1 person

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