Drowning by numbers in the blogisphere

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.

But it induces a feeling of panic and bewilderment that I’m starting to feel in the parallel universe that is the blogisphere.

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?


  1. As long as you are enjoying creating your blog that's all that matters really. I really enjoyed the film when I saw it, but it was years ago and I was quite merry at the time. By the way, the pub was the Abbey Inn. Did you ever have a drink in there?

  2. Just wait, David. As your numbers increase, you'll become even more obsessed by it all. And when you lose a follower (Sorry to break it to you, but you will), you'll sink into a deeper depression - but only after you spend hours trying to figure out which bleepin' bleep it was. I'd gladly lend you a dollar, though. xo

  3. Ah yes - Rawknrobyn makes a good point - losing a follower is an experience we all have to have. Remember - what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger! (And all that cliched nonsense...)

  4. I agree with Happy Frog, if you're having fun, that's all that matters. If you write something, it's nice to know people are reading it and getting something out of it. Clearly your blog is hitting a note with people, and that's a good thing.

  5. I would notice! Don't worry, we are all going through some stage of this =)

  6. Thanks guys - I think I have had a drink there, Happy Frog, as I have had a drink most places in Southwold. Thanks Robyn, may have to hit you up for a dollar later today. Oh I did lose one. I have no hard feelings about the useless git. Thanx Valley Writer, a lost a Facebook friend recently but couldn't work out who it was. Cheers Tim, it has taken off more recently. I don't think it's taken over my life too much Yakoi; my hits for this post are disappointing; off to jump out of the window!

  7. I really enjoyed that movie, actually. ;) But I understand your reservations about the whole stats thing. When I first began blogging, I didn't care, then I had a phase where I was obsessed with the numbers, then I went back to apathy with a bit of routine supervision here and there, and then I switched to a new site and got all worried because the numbers dropped off a cliff -- and got obsessed again.

    For a while now I haven't looked at all. That's my favorite method yet!

  8. Ever since my blog went private I am no longer able to track how many hits I get. I prefer it this way. Friends are still bitching about my private blog, but as my dear friend Rabbit would say "Punch them in the throat and then give them cookies."

    I will be one of your stalkers until you get that restraining order.

  9. Hey, it's fun watching the numbers grow on your followers list. It's a good indicator that what your putting out there is being appreciated or enjoyed.

    From time-to-time you will lose a follower, but in the grand scheme of things, that's alright (as it's also likely you weren't reading their blog either).

    Have fun on this ride :0)

  10. *snort* I think it is partly place in the process, and partly personality that determine how obsessed my numbers we get. I think I was mostly concerned around 25. Every new follower felt like a pawn in my quest for world domination. I followed the number religiously, checked it daily. Gradually, however, I stopped watching the number of followers, and now I don't really know how many I have. I think I could guess it with a margin of five or so if I had to. But Facebook friends? No clue. I don't even know how many digits they are. I know bloggers that have not been concerned by this at all, and then those who still keep close track even at 1000+ followers. We can't all be Rainman!

  11. Thanks Meredith, fraid I haven't been able to do apathy yet. Oh keep on stalking Nubian. I need to get my stalker numbers up, lol. thanx Marnie - it is addictive. I'm with you re world domination Cruella. and thanks for the follo - up to 42. But who's counting???

  12. The blog stats can drive you a little nuts. What I find even more interesting is the search terms people use that land them on my blog. Some of them are pretty funny.

    Oh, and I'd lend you a dollar for coffee if I had it on me. :)

  13. I love your blog. What happened to the cat?

  14. thanx Daisy; I know what you mean re terms. thanks for the offer. Thanks Olga - he won't get microwaved, unless my page views drop below 40.

  15. Save the cat I say! I'll bring the number to 45.

    I know what you mean re the numbers thing, I danced a jig when I got to 10.

    BTW train spotters are alive and well, I saw some on a recent trip to the UK. They looked quite respectable (sort of), but were a bit wary of me photographing them.

  16. Hi Sue - thanx for the follo. That's funny re you photographing trainspotters. They are a strange species.


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