I’ve talked about change before, but this is different. This is so different that is shakes the entire foundations of our psychological operating system, our shared view, or basis of understanding.

Things change, but comparison to others seems almost inevitable. And we cannot escape it on Google+ either…

The numbers matter, but they don’t!

Nothing matters, unless it matters, is what I mean. And there have been several metrics we are comparing consciously or unconsciously, including a person or a Page’s follower count.

When the game changes, however, such as a new metric based on ‘views’ of content, suddenly the comparison made to others changes. This is especially true when this number is a multiple of magnitude higher than follower count.
Seeing how we all respond to a seemingly small system change hits home a profound point – our world can change in an instant. There is no ground, well, not for long.

What happened in your mind?

When you see a change like this you probably:

  1. Experience a trigger e.g. a ‘trusted source’ informs you of the change
  2. You check your own metrics
  3. You check on other people’s to compare (small sample)
  4. You then – and this is key – start to ‘find your place’ in the change
  5. You may feel and express delight (albeit quietly) or you may display resentment that this ‘fact’ has been now displayed, changing the game
  6. You may well then go to a group, public or private, and start to verify that this is ‘real’
  7. You start to explore the consequences of all this, writing posts, hanging out etc.
  8. You may even feel it is all too much and you leave the Internet, washed up and lying there, breathing heaving as this wave has taken your breath away…

What else?

Imagine you’ve been put on the Suggested User List by Google, you have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers. Then, one day in April, they decide to do a purge, removing all the inactive/blue head accounts. You drop to 10% of the people you had ‘following you’.
How would you feel? Pretty rotten, huh?

But hold on, how many of those do you care about? How many people have you really connected with?
As I have said before, you only need around 100 people to amplify your message, to leverage your content into Search (ok, a few more, maybe 450 for ‘challenging stuff).

It is relationships that remain when all else falls away, when the numbers fade in significance.
People, people, not the numbers.
But darn it, comparison to others is what makes us ‘feel’ better than them, that is the tricky thing.

Knowing yourself (myself), however, that this is your/my game; when the game changes, adjusts, we have the opportunity to reflect.

It will never happen!

I believe it is an error not to consider disruptive change on a personal (micro) level as well as the business (macro) one.

Just like a system of link building was culturally the norm one day, people trying to leverage ‘follower count’ may well find that a ‘Panda and Penguin’ affect that nibbles that away.

It may never happen, of course, but just like people resting assured that money in the bank (well, naughts and ones now) will be there tomorrow, we may find ‘security’ a little less than secure.

Google have showed us how the addition of one single metric (view count on a profile) can through our perceptions of what is ‘real’ and what is ‘secure’ in our world.
And this is just the beginning…

To conclude

Think of the last 24 hour as a glimpse of a cycle of a cosmic rug being pulled on your perceptions of security. This one was only a short cycle, of course, but a fun, crazy, wild one for many of us on Google+.
Thank you Google, personally I appreciate the ‘wake up call’ to perceptual tardiness.