Peter Greenaway’s film Drowning by Numbers was made in 1988, well before the Internet age.
I wouldn’t advise anyone to watch it. It’s utterly confusing but has some nice photography, being filmed in picturesque Southwold in Suffolk.
We may not realize it, but slowly the Internet is changing us into number obsessed nerds. We are Rain Man where he drops all the matches on the floor and counts them accurately: we are the trainspotters of the 21st century.
Americans are sometimes confused by this reference as there aren’t many trains over here. It’s nothing to do with heroin abuse or the film of the same name.
But back in the '70s when there were a lot of people who didn’t have a life in England, railway platforms were crowded with them; scruffy youths in thick anoraks, their join-the-dots acne hidden by their hoods; or worse still middle aged men with thick red beards, plaid shirts, rubber shoes and heavy sets of binoculars hanging round their necks whose faces broke into child-like grins every time an 08 shunter appeared in the direction of Crewe depot.
I even went on a trainspotting trip with Collectors Club at school, to Swindon works to see locomotives being assembled and dismantled, to see sparks fly and cranes move. When a 47 diesel appeared on the end of the platform these was a rush of anoraks and rustling of papers as the crowd raced to the tracks to cross the train’s number out of their books.
We are so much more sophisticated today. We are beyond crossing numbers off pieces of paper. Or are we?
Ever since discovering the statistics section of my blog about three months ago I have found myself constantly going on there to see the fall and rise of the graph. It goes up and I’m happy; it flatlines – usually about 4 a.m. – and I place the cat in the microwave. On Monday I recorded more than 100 visits in a day for the first time ever, I believe. I got outrageously drunk and ran round the neighborhood naked (OK I made that bit up).
Today it’s on course for half that number. I’m in a blue funk. But, on the positive side, my number of followers rose to 40.
After learning this good news from home I got to work to check on the number of hits my stories were getting. Now the Hampton News page that I administer is almost up to 2,000 followers; my personal Facebook page has almost hit 300 friends – woo hoo. My Twitter page has more than 900 followers, but I had to follow twice that number to get there. Then there are the regular numbers update for my Hampton Matters blog that usually languishes close to the bottom of the regular email updates – must do better but don’t have a lot of time to post hyperlinks because I’m too busy checking stats elsewhere. How many contacts have I got on LinkedIn? I haven’t had time to find out.
The pertinent question to ask is where is this numbers game going and what’s the point? Will my life be any more enriched if this blog has 60 followers rather than 40. Much as I am fond of my followers, I haven’t met any of them. They’re not like disciples. Some of them probably wouldn't even lend me $1 for a coffee. Is this numbers game going anywhere? And if I carry on like this am I going to catch Asperger’s syndrome?
And if I drown by numbers will anyone notice?