Friend counts. Followers. Website hits. Comment counts. Views. Re-tweets. Likes. All things that are as often misleading as they are helpful when it comes to life online.
They are all simply (supposed to be) indicators of something else. We are ultimately interested in the something else. But our foolish hearts are too easily charmed by the warm-fuzzies of good “indicators” and we forget about the substance of what we are truly trying to do.
Whether we are creating content for a website or blog or we are simply posting something to our Facebook wall or forwarding an email, far too often we are motivated by what will drive our indicators. We think in terms of what will get us the most “likes,” comments, re-tweets or new followers instead of what will most effectively accomplish our goals.
Here are some outstanding comments by Seth Godin on this subject and the value of social networking:
We live in a world motivated by outward appearances. Such motivations ultimately lead to substantive failure. We do this in our parishes and ministries, for example, in regard to membership growth. Our goal should not just be to maximize the growth of our membership count, it’s to first maximize the growth of each individual member. We want quality. We want genuine conversion. These are the kinds of members that go out into the world and turn 5 talents into 5 more. I’ll take a handful of them to a hundred talent buriers any day.
In addition to social networks and organizations, this translates to our personal relationships as well. Having a lot of friends is great. But if we shoot for quantity at the expense of quality, we’ll end up with neither.
Most of all, don’t get tricked into chasing superficial indicators of success or popularity or whatever. It’s one of the easiest ways to waste your life.