Our Obsession with Numbers

Not everyone is good with Math, but almost everyone is familiar with numbers and incorporates them in their daily lives. We cannot escape its importance; we need them as much as we need the alphabets to form words, then sentences, then ideas to say the least. Numbers are used to communicate as effectively as words. For a tourist who travels to a foreign country while he understands no word of the local language, numbers (especially the price tags of goods) become a mutual language understood by both the locals and the tourist to conduct transactions. Numbers convey message and drive decision.

On planet earth only human beings use numbers as a mean of communication, and recently I contemplated on the numbers we are obsessed with in life. They can differ from one person to another, yet they can be similar among strangers. One person I know is obsessed with the number of children she’s going to have; another person is obsessed with the number of extracurricular lessons her children are having. One person’s obsession might look strange, but it’s a personal obsession driven by personal experience and preference. Therefore it should never be criticized.

What numbers are modern people obsessed with? I define modern people here as people who live in urban area (city and town), are sociable, are well-educated, perhaps travel often, and the criteria go on. I’m not saying people who don’t fit those descriptions as less modern people; I just made up the criteria based on my personal observations.

In my opinion, modern people are obsessed with these numbers:

  1. The number in our bank account
  2. The number on the weight scale
  3. The number of reactions towards our social media post

The number in our bank account matters because we need the money to fulfill our needs (and wants). Parents let their children open their own bank account under their parents’ name, as early as elementary school age. In many cases, university students are obliged to open a bank account in a bank appointed by the university they are attending. The bank account will be used to handle any financial matter as long as the students are listed in the university. Students who come not from the area where their university is located need bank account to have money sent by their parents. Bank passbook becomes important, the number in it is even more important. It shows how financially stable a students is. When the number increases, he is relieved because he can pay for the living expense and indulge himself in his hobby/interest, for instance. When the number decreases, he is worried because he still needs money to buy books, food, etc. The number, although useful, becomes his source of delight and worry. The trend continues as one finishes school and starts working. The number of salary offered is one of determining factors whether he will take the job or not. The considerations of using the number are quite the same with when one is still in college: living expenses, indulgence, and saving. The third consideration is crucial because a person has to prepare for the rainy day in his future life. Nevertheless, as the income increases, so does the consumption. For example, when one’s salary is still 7 figures per months, he is able to take a loan to buy a motor cycle. If his salary increases to 8 figures, guess what, he will take a loan for more expensive things, and the trend goes on and on. Consumption is good; it drives the economy. But living beyond one’s means is dangerous, especially if one is having plenty of credit card debts without any growth in his income.

The number on the weight scale is ridiculously important for women. I’ve never met any man who is worried about and is obsessed with his weight as much as many women in my life. We’re not talking about getting in shape, or about body mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight of adult men and women) here. The number of the weight scale alone can make women frustrated and think it’s the end of the world. I was once like that. When I got married I was 60 kg. The number went up, went down, and reached 63 kg after I gave birth to my second child. A year ago I was in a pretty depressing/unhappy/unhealthy state that I gained 10 kg more. I then started doing ballet, taekwondo, and occasionally swimming, and now my weight is still above 63 kg. But I know that I’ve gained enough muscles to replace the fat, and that information is not displayed on the weight scale. If I had been obsessed by the number on the scale alone, I would have driven myself crazy thinking of ways to reduce my weight. What’s more important than the number pointing how much my weight is? Body mass index is an important indicator and our overall well-being also matters. Weighing much (according to us) is not a problem if our body mass index is ideal and our body still possesses strength and agility.

The number of reactions towards our social media post is the typical obsession of anyone who’s been exposed to social media. I won’t speak for myself because it doesn’t matter to me whether my posts garner attention, or not. I post what I want to share regardless people see/like it, but I know people who will share even the most embarrassing and inappropriate moments in their lives just to get those likes. It’s their choice; it has nothing to do with me. What I personally find distasteful is people sharing pictures of a deceased person or a victim of road accident. For picture of a deceased person, I personally think it’s better to get permission first from his/her immediate family before taking any pictures of and/or with the deceased. When my late Namboru (aunt) passed away a couple of weeks ago, I saw people taking pictures of her blatantly up to the point they opened up the fabric which was covering her. And those people were not even related to us! For the sake of my uncle and cousins, I withheld myself from snapping at those rude people. And for picture of a victim of road accident, we can agree that most pictures of them are grotesque and most pictures depict suffering and pain, so why do people keep posting them? It’s a world’s mystery for me, but I have a good guess that they do it to get the likes. Before Facebook added reaction buttons from only “like” to “love, haha, wow, sad, and angry”, people gave their thumbs up for pictures of deceased people. Even if the person sharing the post is somehow related to the deceased, what does “like” we give to that picture mean? That we are taking part in the mourning, or we are delighted because of the loss? Either way, that’s just not right.

Are we happier because we have more money in our bank account, because we weigh less, because we get many likes on our social media posts? I have presumption that those numbers are somehow related to the happiness of modern people, and I wish there has been or there will be research to prove their correlation.

I’m currently obsessed with the number of words I can write in one hour, and so far I haven’t reached a satisfactory result.

What numbers are you obsessed with nowadays?


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