I am writing some feedback about an updated onboarding process for online therapy clients. It involves them setting clearer objectives and holding themselves accountable to more measurable results before clarifying the benefits they imagine experiencing once they hit those results. Measurement is everywhere now so it’s not a surprise, but I start to wonder how much their levels of stress and anxiety might increase as a result of coming into therapy.
Moments later my phone alert sounds but, rather than a text or any other form of human interaction, it is the phone telling me that my screen time is down by 24.2% this week to an average of 10.34 hours per day.
“I can’t have been on my phone for ten and a half hours every day,” I say out loud, to nobody.
When I check I see that it counts the average nine hours each day that the radio is playing silently in the background because I forgot to turn it off when it woke me up as an alarm in the morning.
When my son comes in I say, “Can you think of types of pointless or counterproductive measurement that we have in our lives?”
He thinks for a moment before asking, “Can you quantify that a bit for me?”
I don’t know if he’s joking, so I give some examples.
“Government recommended units of alcohol, opinion polls, ‘likes’ on Instagram, the hugely irritating “People who bought X also bought Y recommendations on Amazon”. All the things that don’t have any impact on our behaviour aside from making us insecure, upset and angry.” I say.
He nods but has his head back in his laptop so I have no idea whether he’s really taking it in or not.
I pick up the newspaper and come across an article in which a leading neurologist is claiming that sleep tracking apps are making our insomnia worse because they are causing an increase in anxiety and stress as we worry about what our smartphones will tell us about our sleep, rather than realising constantly waking up tired is indication enough of a problem.
Fed up with thinking about measurement I go to the kitchen to make coffee. I carefully spoon the ground beans up to the top of the container, then I set the kettle to 90 degrees to avoid scorching the brew.
While the kettle does its work I stare idly into space and find myself drawn to the door frame and I think about the marks we made on it when the children were small. We used to stand them there each birthday and see how much they’d grown. Their faces were always full of joy when they saw the difference.
Back at my desk, I’m tidying the document ready to send when my email pings and I see someone has unsubscribed from my mailing list. I interrupt what I’m doing to investigate. “No longer interested”. Feeling a distinct discomfort in my chest I have a look at their engagement rate and see it’s only 10.8% and immediately I feel relieved.
In the garden, my son is playing with the dog. She is standing wagging her tail furiously in front of him while he sees how high he can kick the ball over her head without her still being able to leap like a salmon and catch it in her excited jaws.