numbers aren't chill

Please compare these short anecdotes:


I woke up early in the morning. After showering and dressing, I walked to the train station where I caught the express and sat down in the first car. Some time later, we pulled into Mountain View.


I woke up at 7:30a, which left me 30 minutes to 1) shower, 2) get dressed, & 3) walk to the Caltrain on 4th & King where I caught the 8:45a with 5 minutes to spare. I sat in the 1st car, 5th from the front. Mountain View was the 12th stop and we pulled in at 9:37a.

They tell the same story, but I'm guessing they produce different feelings in you.

I'm guessing if you'd been hooked up to a very sensitive electrodermal activity monitor, one of those devices that measure your sympathetic response through skin conductance, you'd show more signs of arousal reading the second passage.

I'm guessing the mere presence of numbers increases arousal – and related feelings like stress, anticipation, interest, or fear.

We don't have to agree on exactly how numbers make us feel to conclude that numbers aren't chill.

Social networks have a lot of numbers. Here's a rough numerical inventory of Instagram, the social network I happen to have open right now:






• create unique identity

• shame latecomers

• share PII


posted July 3 commented 3 hours ago

• place in time • indicate fresh/stale status

follower count

following 724 people followed by 999 people

• quantify fine-grain progress • facilitate comparison • yield interestingness ratio • make following feel like prize entry

like count

liked by 72 people

• quantify popularity • reward or punish specific behaviors

post count

245 posts

• shame addicts

On social networks, no number serves a purpose so critical that it can't be removed or replaced by letters.

A chill social network would be one without numbers.

To reply you need to sign in.