The Analytics Effect: Taking ourselves too seriously

My website (www.pgdejonge.com) went live two days ago. Before telling the world, I put Google on the job of tracking what happens there.

Today I checked in again.

Google’s analytics are really comprehensive. Not only can they distinguish pageviews from visitors from unique visitors from new unique visitors, but they can give me the average time spent on my site by said visitors (all of this with a cute graph, in case I can’t handle raw numbers). Hell, if I wanted to, I could see which browser most of the people were using.

All of this connected to a website where I showcase my work, which tempts me to fall into a lot of navel gazing (Fruitless self-examination). The reason for this is that I have somehow tied the amount of visits and time spent on my site to my own performance.

Which is completely ludicrous. I know. But it’s the curse of all bloggers and artists on the net. We create for ourselves, but we create so that others can see it, so when you hand us the tools with which to nit-pick our viewership we tend to obsess over it.

As if our whole culture isn’t narcissistic enough, now we can be self-obsessed with hard numbers on our side. I think this may be a problem with the information age in general. We have so much data that we lose sight of the point of that data. I get caught up in pageviews as a metric for reaching people to the point where I forget to rejoice in the fact that I have actually reached PEOPLE. That most people will gloss over most of the pages they visit in a day is to be assumed, so why am I counting them above the few that I actually make an impact on?

I have been lucky so far. The average time spent on my site is 20 minutes. That’s a long time. Now, I don’t know if people fell asleep on their keyboards or forgot the tab open, but it (coupled with some more data) tell me that people are actually taking the time to look through my work. Which is amazing.

The site went live two days ago, so it’s my friends, family and colleagues visiting. We’ll see where the graph goes from here, but I think it’s important for all us number-watchers to realise that it’s not necessarily a reflection on the worth of our work. Use it for research, for marketing, but I’m going to try refrain from using it to feed my ego.

It’s fat enough already.

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