Why Do We Count Things That Don’t Matter?

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When you look back at how ACHIEVEMENTS were measured in our childhoods, we were often celebrated for how well we did things. Whether there was understanding of how it MADE US FEEL or the significance that it held for us, was not considered. Not by us and certainly not by the world.


As children many of us we were celebrated for how well we could count from 1 up to 10. We've all been faced with the daunting multitasking of using your fingers to remember the right sequence, calling out words that had no meaning and being careful to say them in an order that was deemed acceptable. This system is kept alive by adults we love and trust who are gatekeepers and the first glimpse of people we call the world, who encourage you along the perilous count by prompting you when memory fails to deliver to you what the next number in the sequence is. This is how many of us learned how to count. This is also how many of us learned how to pay attention to things that don't serve us.

This is also how many of us LEARNED how to pay ATTENTION to things that don’t SERVE us.
My First Birthday | Mogwase, 1993

My First Birthday | Mogwase, 1993

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Without realizing, we grow up to uphold this system of achievement, find ways to get better at counting and subconsciously enroll others into this way of life by offering an applause when a child stumbles her way through counting to ten. We teach her that an applause is earned when she gets through the regurgitation of words that have no meaning to her. We teach her that when she finally utters the word ten, that earns her an affirming reaction that signals to her that counting things matters.

This seemingly matters because no-one pays attention to how one is able express how they feel. In our formative years, our ability to name our emotions is often times limited to a less than exhaustive vocabulary of just two emotions: happiness or sadness. Although some might argue that emotions are complex to understand at a young age, we could potentially counter that by asking ourselves if it wasn't worth it to take this challenge on and reach a level of mastery in our emotional intelligence while we are growing up. Would it not be worth saving ourselves from tears of frustration that well up in our eyes when we are left feeling misunderstood by the world? As we grow up, does our memory of the words "one, two, three" really serve who we become?

When I started thinking about the psychology that social media platforms play to and the factors that contribute to the addictive nature that has gripped our society, I realized that one such factor is how the world is still playing to that little girl in us that was encouraged to count up to ten. Take for instance how Instagram will applaud your ability to amass a follower base of 10,000 people by unlocking certain functionalities in your profile. Whether you show up with your truth to the platform doesn't really matter, simply because that can't be quantified in a way that keeps you in the sequence of the system that subliminally says, "Keep this up, the end is near."  


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We trade in living a life that finds MEANING in the little things that become the BIG THINGS when all is said and done.

But is there such a thing as the end? There is an unshakable and discomforting sense that, in our pursuit and obsession to count to 10, get 10K followers and make our first 1 million dollars, we trade in our ability to pay attention to the things that matters most to who we are and the things  we wake up each morning. We trade in living a life that finds meaning in the little things that become the big things when all is said and done. We miss out on what the French call "Joie de vive.", which is used to describe anyone who lives fully and passionately; an exaltation their spirit and reveling in every single moment. There is no shortage of people who are good at keeping count. It is good lives led by people who truly feel successful that are hard to come by.