Metrics, measurements, and data make us analyze our environment in relation to the metrics being measured. And by analyzing our environment in relation to a specific metric, whether that is grades, number of likes, or customer satisfaction, we fundamentally change our actions and perception — often without noticing.
Instagram has recently hidden the number of likes on a post, which may be a positive step forward for mass-social networks. While there can be other problems associated with this — for example making it easier for social networks to show you more promoted posts, the overall effect on users is positive.
Any number or measurement shown to a large amount of users should be thought of from the perspective of how it could influence behaviour. Preferably from an morally ethical standpoint rather than finding clever ways to use numbers to influence users in such a way to drive profit. Metrics can be powerful tools, but they can also be quite dangerous if used incorrectly.
Some thoughts on different metrics:
- # of likes/loves or other reactions
Likes are mostly based on split-second impressions and how big your follower base is. As such, likes promote content which is immediately satisfying to your target audience. In some cases this can create a positive feedback loop where posts/content become increasingly eye-catching, headlines become increasingly clickbait, or ideas become increasingly radicalized. The audience continually pushes their own filter bubble towards greater and greater polarization.
- # of views
Views mean nothing. They often tell more about random perterbences of an algorithm or how catchy a headline title is than anything about a post itself.
- Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The forcus of an entire nation on maximizing profit? If only money could buy happiness. It is the woe of cities that they have been built around cars not people; and the woe of nations that they have been built around economies not happiness. Perhaps a better metric would be Gross National Happiness which is well-known for being the governing philosophy of Bhutan.
Grades are only loosely connected to actual ability. They say more about how well you've figured out how to please the system of testing and studing. As well, each teacher grades differently! I've seen people ace courses without handing in a single project, and others diligently working away getting low grades because they were stuck with difficult teachers. I believe that a much better
- Word Count
I keep a word count (and page count) on the front of my website. This is for two reasons: first is to give the user a idea of how much content is on my site, and the second is to inspire me to write more. Word count is generally a good metric as writing anything is better than writing nothing. However since the word count cares nothing for the quality of your writing (something which cannot be so easily measured), then judging yourself based on your low/high word count can be detrimental as writing more seems better but sacrifices quality. And not just quality that can be redeemed in editing, writing too fast or carelessly sacrifices quality of ideas. Sometimes the most powerful writing is when you condense your ideas down into precise and meaningful sentences.