Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
We're Measuring Wrong | 10.1.23

We're Measuring Wrong | 10.1.23

The Sunday Edition

How many likes did your last post get? How many views on that video you posted three days ago? How many followers do you have on Instagram? What about TikTok? You’re on Twitter, right? What was the ratio of likes to retweets on your latest tweet? You don’t know? Oh my, you’re missing out on good data from your dashboard on YouTube aren’t you?! Can you monetize yet? Oooh, did you go viral? You gotta go viral, your views will go through the roof, you’ll get so much more traction. Check your likes, but make sure to reload it first, obviously. Oh you want to be published? Sorry, we only take submissions from people with 100k on Instagram, or at least 50k on TikTok, maybe try to boost your following first, then resubmit, then come back and talk to us. Fingers crossed!

Excuse me while I clench my fists together as tightly as I can, and choke down the sick, excuse me while I bow out of this stupid rat race and vanish into the heather, the moss, the sea spray blowing off the surface of the water on some isolated island two thousand miles away from the this absolute and utter horseshit.

We’re measuring our lives wrong, so catastrophically wrong I am genuinely and perpetually terrified for not only ourselves as we wander through the next years of our lives, but sincerely frozen in fear for the way the generations to follow will continue to do so. We’re using views, likes, comments, followers, and social media data as the metric to measure our lives, and the success of them. Intangibles that actually mean nothing to our real lives, but make a whole lot of difference to the bottom-line of the companies pumping them out. These are the great cons of the 21st century, the snake oil sold as cure that we just keep swallowing, that we keep fighting for, despite that nagging voice in the back of our brains that screams over and over: THIS IS NONSENSE, THIS IS NONSENSE. Whatever, says the part gagging for a dopamine hit, do the TikTok dance in public, set up your camera to capture some premeditated fail (but make it look real!), record your little acts of kindness because what’s the point of giving that homeless person a sandwich if you don’t get the cred and clout on the Gram? Do it, do it man, do it for the Gram.

Somehow, we bought the lies we were sold, the idea that the worth of our lives, of us as human beings, is somehow based on the network we’re able to accumulate. We believe it though, god damn we believe it, and how can we not? We see influencers making millions of dollars hocking products literally designed to fall apart and fail the moment the warranty expires, we watch people paid to travel and stay in luxury accommodations we’ll never be able to afford and we feel envy, we compare our clothing, our music, our houses, our cars, our bodies, and our relationships to these false idols and false ideals that are all #ad #paidpartnership #sponsored by pretty people in pretty boxes pumping out videos that fit snuggly inside the Reels time limits or using the right TikTok filters that happen to be trending. We’re doing this WRONG, and I’m frustrated, and I’m irritated, and I am desperate for authenticity, and I’m sick of caring, and sick of my career being controlled and influenced by this silly shit.

So, today, instead of continuing to bitch about it, I’m going to propose something else. I’m going to be actionable, rather than simply complain, I’m going to come up with a solution, at least a piece of one, rather than focusing only on what’s broken. What’s the point of aiming our fingers at what’s not working, what’s hurting, if we’re not able to also invent something that resembles a solution. That’s all I can do, this shout into the void of Meta, of Elon, of TikTok, or Snapchat mania. I propose new metrics to measure the success of our lives, and I’ll drop a few for you, and then ask you to do the same. Maybe if we all got together, went on Strike from the silliness we’ve just accepted as normal, maybe, just maybe, the collective flapping of our butterfly wings will start a hurricane strong enough to wipe those corporate behemoths off the map, once and for all.

Let’s measure life instead, by the following metrics, these few of what could be many:

  • People Leaving Us Feeling BETTER - Ah, a countable number, feel free to keep track of this data. How many people in your life come to you feeling one way, but leave you feeling better? Quantifiably better. How many people turn to you when they are low, only to walk away feeling, if not high, at least a hell of a lot less low? Mother Theresa had it right when she said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.” So let’s start here, the first metric. How many people?

  • Animals That Trust Us - I will not lie, and I will not brag, this might be the metric where I’m the g.d. Selena Gomez of the world for. This metric is that of animals that actually trust you, that feel safe in your presence. Domesticated animals are worth one point each, whilst wild animals are worth, at minimum, 3. The more wild the animal, the more stand-offish or ferocious, skittish or sneaky, the creature, the more points its worth. These are the followers to covet, and the views from their eyeballs the ones worth fighting for.

  • Moments That Take Our Breath Away - Ahh, this one is beautiful as it’s so intensely personal, and therefore cannot be compared with those of anyone else. We’re all different, so the moments that qualify will look completely different and this means there’s no competition, there’s no feeling FOMO for someone else’s, there’s no reduction of yours based on the grandeur of others. These are the number, the shape, the color, of the moments that truly take your breath away. The more the better, but weirdly, and this is a fun little addition to this metric, the more obscure or nuanced they are, the more they are worth. This is the stretching of our capacity for wonder, and it’s worth a hell of a lot more than an Instagram follow.

  • Kindnesses Not Captured - So you gave some money to charity, so you gave a sandwich to someone begging on your street corner, so you shoveled the driveway, or cleared the car of a neighbor of snow…great work, but if you recorded it, unfortunately, it doesn’t count. Nope, not at all. This metric is for the random acts of kindness you complete that go completely unnoticed by a single soul. Only you know your number, and you’ve gotta be honest because what’s the point in lying to yourself?

  • Moments of Pure Calm - These are for the moments that go altogether too-often unnoticed. These aren’t the marquee moments that have you standing on some far-away beach or mountaintop, although they could be, no these are the moments where you stop, get a deep, clear breath, and think to yourself “This is nice.” These are the moments of serenity that come with feeling content, and I think sometimes, contentedness gets overshadowed by its big brother, joy, which is unfair, and needs remedying. Start here.

  • Items Given Away - Another easy metric to measure! Hooray for those. This is the number of items you own, that you admit to yourself outloud that you no longer need. This is the number of items you give away to someone that does need them, to a charity that can find someone that needs and deserves them more. The more we slim down the things we own, the lighter we feel, the lighter we feel, the more moments of Pure Calm (see above) seem to happen. What a thing.

  • Belly Laughter - Oooh, a doozy of one, this. These are the countable moments of absolute belly laughter. Bonus points actually if that laughter is alone, because too often we base our own happiness, our own silliness, on the proximity of others. The ability to laugh out loud whilst entirely alone is a rare and coveted skill. This will help build that. Watch this metric, as the more solo-laughter you have, the more frequently you’ll have the shared version. It all works together on this list, are you seeing that?

  • Honest Tears - The companion to the Belly Laughter metric, this is the times you’ve cried honest tears. We cannot be joyful, cannot be content, cannot have moments of pure calm, without having moments of sorrow, of sadness, of melancholy, or ache. The importance of this, is that it prizes not just the rosy and good moments, but puts equal weight on the other side of the coin that is the human experience. You win, even when you’re losing. See how that works?

  • Moments of Self-Satisfaction - Lastly, for now, as I’m sure this list will grow and grow, these are the moments of pride in who we are, as we are, exactly. These are the times we look in the mirror and rather than pick ourselves apart and find 10,000 things that need work, maintenance, or completely changing, we just see ourselves, as we are, and love what we see. This will be the hardest metric for most, this will be the equivalent of ‘going viral’ and there’s a reason for that. Of all the metrics, this is the one that will most change our lives. This is the metric that will provide to us the emotional income, the windfall of love and calm and laughter and tears and animals trusting us and people leaving us feeling better and moments that completely take our breath away, more than any other. This is the viral of it all, the only viral we should chase.

We’re measuring wrong, and I’m tired of pretending it is ok. We’re servants to a system we didn’t need, and we get lost in the rat-race trying to keep up with people we’ll never meet, celebrities we’ll never know, and we feel ache or shame for not living lives we will never lead. I am sorry for this, I am sorry that it’s the default currency of our day, and while I apologize for this despite not having created it, I cannot help but do so. I cannot help but try to help, and that is what this is.

Maybe we start here, maybe we help each other find more ways to realize the immense success of our lives, maybe we find targets that are healthier to aim at. Maybe.

I’m starting here. I hope you’ll join me.

We’re measuring wrong,

using improper metrics,

to value our lives.

Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson

Song of the Week

Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Tyler Knott Gregson and his weekly "Sunday Edition" of his Signal Fire newsletter. Diving into life, poetry, relationships, sex, human nature, the universe, and all things beautiful.