I’m feeling pretty good about myself. I’ve had some downtime this summer, adventured with family, reconnected with friends, and had a chance to meet a visionary group of people who I predict will change the direction of education. In so doing, I’ve learned about the mysterious world of Silicon Valley startups and had an amazing time in the process. I’ve even learned a few things about myself.
I’ve learned to text and email in sentence fragments, for example, because (sigh) “no one has time to read an epic—we get a lot of email.” I’m a researcher—a nerd. Our motto is, “to make a short story longer.” The idea of dangling a participle, cutting emails by seventy percent or ending a thought midstream would have left me seeking treatment not six months ago. Now, I can split infinitives like firewood and carry on two different conversations—in sentence fragments—with the same person across three different platforms, simultaneously. It’s not ADHD. It’s a personal best overlapping with far too much caffeine.
I’ve discovered sites and blogs I never would have known, engaged in conversation with brilliant entrepreneurs, and found new worlds of information enabling me to boldly go where no educator has gone before. I even took the enterprising step of linking my social media accounts and using the ones I’d left dormant. I’m up to thirty-three Twitter followers. Pretty soon the President will take my calls. He certainly sends me enough email. So many people in education fear these things, because they put you under a microscope. Nobody wants to look like stagnant pond-dwelling plankton in front of the world, or worse yet, to be controversial.
I threw caution to the wind—I went nearly public. Why wouldn’t the world want to hear what I have to say? I know stuff—I can spell. Can even learn to write in sentence fragments. I was, indeed, feeling good after “playing tech with the big boys” for a few months. Like I had a voice in the universe.
So imagine my surprise—my horror—at realizing the entire time the Internet has been rating me—and I am a gigantic loser. Algorithms, scores, numbers, charts, graphs. My pitiful status cemented by math.
You guessed it, I found my Klout score—that magical number that defines and quantifies the impact I have in the universe—the ability I have to influence the world. Can I cure cancer? Check my Klout score. Do I have the potential to lead the PTA fundraiser or be a soccer mom? Klout score? Do I deserve the quantity of oxygen I siphon from the universe on a daily basis? Klout score, please. Now!
At first I thought it was a techie joke, so I played along. No doubt a round-table of geeks and hipsters wearing black, restricting their sugar intake, sitting around old college yearbooks rating people like some B-grade talent show. Payback for getting cut from the football-cheerleading clique; having to be captains of their respective math and chess clubs instead.
Then I discovered this was most certainly not a joke. There are entire industries that take this very seriously. Industries like social media, publicity, and politics. Places where “influence” is critical. Circles I have grown to like. And they have numerically branded me a loser in public, affixing the lowest of numbers and a big scarlet L to my digital profile. It’s sort of like living in high school…forever.
To rub it in, Klout, which no doubt knows when I last visited the gynecologist, showed my friends’ scores— my flesh and blood friends as well as the imaginary-digital ones—just to emphasize my bona fide cyber-pariah status, reinforcing that I’m a social washout. It placed me unfavorably next to my heroes, like the Dalai Lama, who is up in the Kloutosphere, and the President (he won’t take my calls if he sees that number) who scored 99. Regardless of his approval ratings in the latest poll. That’s a lot of Klout.
Apparently, the Kloutier you are, the more “perks” you get. Perks are free things given to you by people who want to attach to your Klout-tails or who are just impressed by you. I don’t know. I don’t get any perks. I think they’re sending me a bill to cover my Klout-deficit, actually. One lady I read rejoiced when her Klout hit 50—I guess that’s the magic number where you transform from a nonentity into a person. People congratulated her like she won her first Pulitzer or solved the problems in the Middle East without first consulting Jimmy Carter.
I have the least Klout of all my friends. A stat professor friend of mine hovers close to the Dalai Lama, and my entrepreneurial friends are within ten points. I bet my husband’s higher, too–he has more “friends” than me. If I run the math, that makes me 2.5 to 3 times more of a loser than all my friends. I suspected as much, (okay, the stat professor surprised me), but it hurts to see it proven. And I’m lucky I’m not a spinster.
Just to rub salt in the wound it asked, “Do you want to post this to your Facebook profile?” No, I don’t want to tell Facebook I’m the supernova of anti-influence. That I couldn’t convince a born again Christian to love Jesus or a redneck to watch NASCAR. That my digital impact is nonexistent.
It mocked me further, “Casey…you’re right. You are subterranean. It’s been confirmed. No one important likes you. Here are the quarterly numbers. Spin them like FOX News if you like…Social grace, down ten points. Likeability, a modest 10. Optimism, a little higher, cool factor, a stone cold 0. Unfortunately, we can’t measure fashion in negatives. Go back to the punch bowl with the other dweebs.”
I am left to wonder if these numbers are like the old dating system in high school. If I’m a six or seven, I can date people scoring one point up or down. A two-point difference is getting shady. THREE POINT SPREAD? That person is “out of your league.” Or is this like the article I saw in The Economist that said that people must marry based on equivalent credit scores. Could my Klout score ruin my marriage? Ahhh, life by the numbers…
I was hoping beyond all hopes that the algorithms would be influenced by the body scanners at the airport. At least there I had a chance to pick up some points. “Fits through the scanner,” check. “Aged very well,” check. “Totally in shape,” check. However, it was not to be… I can’t even use my assets (no pun) to promote my inner cool. How incredibly tragic for me.
So, as I go through life Kloutless and lonely, I would like to thank my sister, who writes for a major online publication. Because even though she has far, far more Klout than me, she will still read my stuff. And occasionally give me a “like” in order to help me maintain the little Klout I have. Which is truly much more than I deserve. And I’ll remember the tweet I saw yesterday, “Whenever you get upset at how many followers you have, remember that Jesus only had 12.” If I run that math, I guess I’m not so bad after all.