How Engagement Metrics Have Dumbed Us Down and Hurt Us More Than We Know – The Quintessential Leader Perspective

Posted: March 24, 2017 in General Things about Quintessential Leadership
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Metrics instead of content have become the thingThere was a time – a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away it seems – when the quality and expertise of information mattered. Even on the internet. 

In its early days when it became more widely available to the public (mid-to-late 1990’s), the internet was about research, facts, discussions, and sometimes even vehement disagreements (the infamous “flame wars”), but there was an abundance of quality and expert information to teach, to learn from, and to share.

But then something changed as private companies like Google, Yahoo!, and MSNBC (Bing) discovered an easy way to monetize the internet in the middle of the the first decade of the 21st century by offering, for a price, the ability for anybody on the internet to buy their way to the coveted first page (understanding how we mere mortals still think old-school: that whoever was on that page had the quality and the expertise and was the cream of the crop) of their search engines.

Google perfected this to a degree that Yahoo! and MSNBC could never keep up with or match by giving their paying customers detailed analytics – engagement metrics – on how successful internet user interaction and conversion (an order, a request, or a sale) was for the keywords and pages they bought for them.

Shortly after this, Facebook and Twitter led the way in social media with an even easier and more transparent way to measure engagement, again playing to old-school human thinking (the more engagement, the higher the quality and the expertise, and the better the content) with their like and share features (with the implicit supposition that the more something was liked and/or shared, the better the quality, expertise, and content).

Like the search engine models, the more engagement, the higher the post or tweet in everybody’s news feed.

However, as in that other long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was a dark side. And that dark side has now become the only side.

Metrics of engagement has become the thing, both for organizations and individuals. It has become the driver for the internet. Content, quality, and expertise have become the casualties in the process.

We have have become extremely dumbed down and harmed in serious ways we don’t even know about because our worlds have become homogenized, insular, and closed (we know everything and everything and everybody we know agrees with everything we know, so there is nothing new to learn and nothing outside our little bubbles to explore) because they are now just mere reflections of our opinions and viewpoints.

That’s why fake news and alternative facts are not only the norm, but completely acceptable to most people, and why so many people believe it. That is why most content is superficial, narcissistic (it’s all about me), inane, and monolithic. 

Most of us have fallen for the irrelevance of the numbers game (“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”) and we’ve lost truth, expertise, quality, and critical thinking that requires us to question and examine carefully everything we see and hear and prove its validity and veracity for ourselves.

There’s another aspect to this dark side that we don’t realize consciously either.

In Matt Richtel’s book, A Deadly Wandering, he presents the research behind what makes this like and share metric engagement so seductive and addictive to those on the giving end.

It is a twist on human neediness (some of us are much more attention-needy than others, and a quick purview of social media can easily highlight the much more attention-needy people, because they’re the ones posting, liking, and sharing almost continously) that feeds the feel-good hormone dopamine with each like and share (given and received) until it becomes an addiction.

Again, content, quality, and expertise are nowhere in this equation. Instead it’s a numbers game that feeds our addiction.

Just because we’re striving to become quintessential leaders doesn’t mean that we’re immune to this alluring trap and its potential to destroy the very principles and core of who and what we say we are and we believe and are striving to become completely.

Because we’re human, we’re subject to the same mass appeal these engagement metrics offer and especially to the short-term emotional payoff of dopamine rushes.

But what we stand to lose in the process is not worth it. Ever.

You have the ability to choose. But never forget that it is a choice. It is your choice.

However, it’s a line in the sand and you can’t choose both.

How are we doing? 

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