Sam Radford

January 8, 2024

The bliss of not knowing

We have more access to stats, analytics, and data than ever. This is doing us more harm than good. 

We know how many people view or interact or engage with everything we post online. We then use that data to inform what we do next. At a business level, that may make sense (though, even there, I’m not so sure). But at the personal level, it makes no sense at all.

Why do I need to know how many people like or view what I share on Instagram, or X, or my WhatsApp status? What does knowing that actually tell me? If we’re looking for some kind of validation, we’re looking in the wrong place. Finding a sense of worth from something as fickle as social media is a recipe for pain and disappointment. We must not attach our value to the mercies of algorithms we have no influence over.

Switching off the stats

In recent times, I’ve been trying to switch off and disconnect from this kind of data as much as possible. One of the reasons I blog here at HEY World and no longer at Substack (not the only one), is because I don’t want all the data they give me about subscribers, opens, clicks, and more. The whole Substack process badgered me to write and structure my posts entirely for more subscribers, more opens, more clicks. It felt icky. 

Here, I have no idea if you are reading this. And if you are, I don’t get to know if you’re reading it because you came from a social media post, or because you follow the RSS feed, or if you’re a subscriber. I have no idea if you click on any of the links. And that not knowing is… blissful! And freeing. It shifts the focus back to me and my own intuitive sense around engaging writing. 

I read a blog post recently and the author was sharing all her lessons learned from the analytics around her writing in 2023. Her more personal posts didn’t do as well statistically so she plans to write less of those. 

I couldn’t help but think that that’s a terrible decision! It’s her blog, and she should write about what she wants to, regardless of stats. 

What if there were less raw readers of those posts, but the deep impact of them was far greater? Numbers don’t tell you everything.
And when we over invest in them, it can lead to poor decision making. 

Hence, for me, I’d rather not have the data at all. 

No more read receipts

There are other areas too. I’ve recently switched off read receipts on WhatsApp. It means people cannot see if or when I’ve read something they have sent me. But it also means I cannot see if they’ve read what I sent. This is such a pressure relief!

If people know we have read something, we often then feel obliged to reply straight away. That isn’t healthy.
Sure, it can be nice to know that something has been seen, but overall, that knowing is not a good thing. 

Whether or not any of us read or view something should be private and as to whether or not anyone else gets to know if we’ve seen something should be under our control.

Curiosity is what garners our interest in stats. But what starts out as curiosity can quickly lead us into darker territory. If we become too attached personally to people’s engagement with our content, it can lead to a horribly distorted sense of worth. Even if we don’t attach ourselves to the data personally, it can lead us into poor decisions and away from our authentic selves to start serving what the algorithms reward.

My advice? Pursue the bliss and freedom of not knowing!


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About Sam Radford

Husband, father, lover of books, writer, tech geek, sports fan, and pragmatic idealist from Sheffield, England.