So God just sent his chief publicist down to help Jesus and he says, “You’re doing good work, Jesus, but I’m worried about your counts. You’ve got twelve committed “followers” but rumor has it that one’s about to drop, and a couple seem kind of flaky. Now you’re doing OK with the female demographic, but all those Mary’s are like family – so maybe we shouldn’t count them.  My count puts you at about 20 followers, so I’m sorry old boy, but we can’t get the sponsorship you need with those numbers. Not this lifetime. But don’t give up….maybe you could still pull off some kind of big event at the end!”

It’s hard to imagine, but there might have been life before counting “followers,” “friends,” downloads, and clicks.

Are we click-obsessed to the point where superficial hits on a website means more than absorbing knowledge?

What gets counted counts. But are we counting what matters?

Clicks drive the internet economy. Sales count, but everything online starts with a click. During the 30 minutes I just spent researching on-line, (aka surfing), I fed the click-monster hundreds of cookies.

His appetite is veracious.

The monster gobbles up clicks on various sites, without being all that discerning.

monster-768x768He doesn’t care about great ideas, beautiful writing, or breakthroughs in intergalactic science. In fact, he knows that he can find more action on sites that feature puppies, kittens and Kim Kardashian.

This monster eats what he can count, so he devours statistics for sign-ups, memberships, downloads, etc.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on him. After all, measurement is key to marketing. Counting audiences is a fact of life in many industries – just ask my magazine publisher friend!

I’m not throwing out counting, this is just a plea for balance.

Has our click-obsession led us to counting superficial contacts, rather than worrying if we’re making any kind of difference in the world? What about increasing compassion, insight, or the quality of relationships on the planet?

To paraphrase an old saying: “It’s unlikely at the end of your life, God is going to ask you how many clicks you got.”

Is this just sour grapes on my part? Probably. I’m not immune to the click-obsession-disorder. It really came up for me when I re-launched my consulting practice. When I wanted to start presenting talks again after a ten year hiatus from public speaking, the first question I heard was “How large is your following?” How to answer? (“Well, there’s my mother…)

I cringe when people start bragging, in my online podcasting support groups, about the hundred thousand downloads their podcast has achieved. I feel like the little kid in first grade who’s comparing lunches and has to admit, “I got peanut butter.” Does that mean my podcast doesn’t matter? Do I obsess with downloads or focus on how thrilling it is to create an interview with a fascinating guest and share it with listeners?

Here’s how our click-counting disorder can affect your life:

  • You’re an author but you can’t just write a great book, you have to create an on-line platform and attract a following.
  • You’re a good journalist but writing a daily news story is no longer enough. You have to send out three Twitter tweets a day.
  • You spend hours composing a blog each week that you think is interesting. Then you hear that your favorite on-line guru has millions of followers and despair when the next person drops from your list.
  • You distribute little packets of content (aka posts) all over the internet hoping to magically entice people to your website and mailing list.
  • You meet someone at a digital commerce conference, and the first thing they ask about are your download statistics.
  • You find it consoling that POTUS (President of the United States) also has to count his (or her) online hits.

As I said this is a not a rave against counting. But I think there’s something more that people are searching for online and I want to give it a name.

Maybe it’s connection.

What would you call it???

Please let me know.  I’m getting ready to create a manifesto and I’d love your help to write it.

To be continued next week…