Digital metrics increasingly define us, creating a new way to value each other and ourselves. Big data, sensors and algorithms will fuel a new wave of vanity metrics that will further refine self-identity.
We got an early taste of this new digital vanity with Klout, Empire Avenue, PeerIndex and other influence metrics. But things are going to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective).
Consider the movement toward the Internet of Things and this week’s mega-acquisition of Nest. We are literally just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to personal data. We’ll be able to see how many times a day we open the fridge, and for how long. What are our peak grazing periods, and which products do we reach for the most?
That kind of data creates statistics, lots of them.
Suddenly, every aspect of our lives will become a sabermetric, giving us the chance to optimize our lifestyle. You can see this already with leaderboards and badges for social giving, fitness apps, and more.
Performance will become a mantra for some more competitive and vain people.
It’s not hard to envision endless chatter at the coffee shop, the water cooler and the bar about how life is better thanks to xxx [data-drive] app. Even more amazing, will be the discussions about how xx is in the 95th percentile of powersavers in the neighborhood.
Now look, some people will take this more seriously than others, but we all know what a good portion of top performers do…
They put stickers on their car, “My Child is an Honor Roll Student.” Or badges on their blog. Or ribbons on their social network profile. Or include it in their bios. Whatever the statistic may be, we will hear endlessly about it from the more competitive and vain types.
Let’s be clear. The need to measure one’s performance — and in the most shallow and vain examples one’s self worth — existed well before Internet life. Consider school grades, attendance reports, boy and girl scout badges, colored belts for martial arts, etc. But in many of these cases we rewarded achievements.
Now we will reward arcane personal statistics.
In business, this metric based reality is inescable. The bottom line on any outcome measured by data is a merciless judge who has no defining characteristic other than success or fail. The application of metrics is the ultimate judge of any business person.
Marketers who value freedom and qualitative success above metric performance are having a hard time of it in this world where data drives everything. As Avinash Kaushik said this week, no one wants to hire a reporting squirrel. And can you blame companies? We know precision exists, and now brands are demanding it.
Are You a Metric?
The real concern is that we are conditioning ourselves to value statistical vanity and shallow egotism. The attention economy demands it. The proliferation of performance-bragging will become more and more commonplace. Welcome to the new rat race for many insignificant badges.
- How are we going to deal with self image when so many people tie it to a metric?
- How do you grapple with social climbers who will throw you under the bus in favor of appeasing the sensor or algorithm?
- How will impact be defined in the future? Touching and changing people’s lives or breaking records in arcane communities that relish niche statistics?
- What will we write on our gravestones in 50 years, a top ranked blogger who achieved a 16.7% lifetime share rate, or writer?
I don’t know about you, but I have many fears about this next wave of technology. Why? Consider how we as a species embrace technologies on a sociological level. Humans tend to adpat technologies blindly on hopes of achieving promised benefits. We rarely consider societal impact.
We’re already grappling with the ugly from social, and now we will see the ugly side of data metrics. While society will reap the economic benefits of data, expect shock from individuals and communities who are dismayed by the coming wave of metric-based vanity.
What do you think?