Likes. Hearts. Follows. Views. Regrams. Retweets. Analytics. We see numbers blasted in front of us everyday—on our feeds, in school, on TV, and even in the hypothetical gauge we have in our heads of how well we think we're doing in life (what's your average looking like these days?). The numbers themselves don't mean anything. We know they're just numbers. But somehow, our brains begin to short circuit when we see these stats everywhere. Because we're constantly exposed to figures that measure how "liked" we are, how "viewed" we are, how "trending" we tend to be, these numbers transform into a way to measure ourselves. When we're programmed to consistently keep track, checking in on how we're doing as opposed to others becomes automatic—both on and offline.
But somehow, our brains begin to short circuit when we see these stats everywhere. Because we're constantly exposed to figures that measure how "liked" we are, how "viewed" we are, how "trending" we tend to be, these numbers transform into a way to measure ourselves.
LIVING WITH LABELS
Pitting ourselves against others can start early on. Way before we get entangled in the mess of school life (which can get really messy), we've got family dynamics building up the pressure. Maybe you've been assigned a "role" along with your siblings—the smart one, the pretty one, the funny one, the rebel. Archetypes exist because they're real, after all. But when you get a label slapped onto you before you even have a chance to develop as an individual, it's easy to slip into self-loathing.
The smart one gets the school praises, but may get lambasted by an older brother for being a nerd, or by a super insensitive tita (everyone has the one) who keeps hounding her about not having a boyfriend or going out more.
The pretty one gets the attention because she's so cute (it doesn't matter if you're still a baby, a little kid, or all grown up), but gets ragged on by parents for not being an honor student, or being too kikay.
The funny one is never serious enough, but is always the center of attention at family gatherings.
The rebel gets talked about in whispers and in secret family Viber groups where gossip rules all day, everyday.
The left-brained one is the automatic "doctor of the family" (that could be totally inspiring in a family of medical professionals but absolutely alienating in a family of artists), while the right-brained one is the "prodigy and creative genius" (where she could be made fun of for supposed "mood swings" or praised for innate talent).
You could either use these labels to live up to your potential and perhaps even push the boundaries of the way you perceive yourself. Or, use all the negative connotations that come with what people say about you and turn them into self-fulfilling prophecies. The point is, we all have a choice about what we do with these labels—we can use them to empower ourselves, and make comparison with others an uplifting experience; or just use these words to bring ourselves further down our hypothetical success scale.
We all have a choice about what we do with these labels—we can use them to empower ourselves, and make comparison with others an uplifting experience; or just use these words to bring ourselves further down our hypothetical success scale.
PLAYING THE VIRTUAL NUMBERS GAME
The same thing goes with the numbers that bombard our daily lives—how we perceive them is entirely our choice. If we're going to let ourselves be slaves to analytics and numerical data, then we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of instant comparison with others. We allow the numbers to affect what we share and post and tweet and put out there, when what we present to the online world really, inherently is, is a part of our lives and how we see ourselves. If the numbers begin to rule, then we run the risk of becoming empty shells that only count when others "say" we do.
We allow the numbers to affect what we share and post and tweet and put out there, when what we present to the online world really, inherently is, is a part of our lives and how we see ourselves.
The question is, how many times have you mindlessly hearted a post? Retweeted something you thought was funny? Followed someone on Tumblr, just because? It takes a millisecond to commit to these actions and yet we allow them to shape the way we see ourselves. The weight that slapping a virtual "grade" on something we see online and what it consequently means to our own perceptions of ourselves don't really compute.
Let's take the movies. Blockbuster hits are a real thing now—where box office returns are stacked up against each other, and where a film supposedly only matters if it's racked up significant numbers. But really, you could watch the most low-ranking film in the cinema—the kind that's kicked out of the theaters after a week because it rated so low—and experience an incredible connection with its message. Liking something off-kilter doesn't make you a weirdo, just because all your friends thought the movie was meh. Or you could go into a standard superhero summer blockbuster movie and love it so much you watch it thrice in one week—that doesn't make you a sellout (despite what the more "intellectual" movie critics say).
THE BOTTOM LINE
What all this comes down to is the power you have to shape who you are. Without needlessly comparing yourself to other people. Without succumbing to numbers and figures and metrics. It isn't easy, but it's so much more empowering and rewarding to form your identity outside of any success scale. Instead of obsessing over how good you are or aren't, DO YOU.