Funny how many people sit there, absorb the statistic, ponder it and find it interesting and then quote it, re-tweet it or simply treat it as gospel. My take is that we are all suffering from statistic fatigue – or what I’m going to coin – ‘stat-fag’. On second thoughts, maybe not. Hopefully you realise that 50% of anything is below average.

If you’re a follower of the social media movement you must be suffering from statistic fatigue; this never ending barrage of pie charts, percentages and forecasts. Where do all the stats come from?

I was recently presenting to a prominent national group of book retailers where as an ice breaker I played one of ‘those’ social media videos. You know the one that says that there are more people on facebook than there are people. That 1 in every ‘a lot of people’ has a smart phone and that by 2014 there won’t be any real Mayors only foursquare Mayors. One of my favourite stats is, ‘if facebook were a country it would the third (it used to be 5th when I started on the presentation trail) largest in the world’. I feel like saying, if facebook were a country it would be a really crap place to live.

Anyway the stat I was questioned on was ‘35% of all book sales on Amazon is for the kindle’. The gentleman in the audience diplomatically said that in all his book industry research the number was considerably smaller. I must admit in all my presentations, and I’ve done many, I have never been pulled up on a number. Have we become numb and all accepting of numbers? I can assure you I do not present to the gullible.

As I sat frozen on stage blushing from the sternum, I did what any stand-up comic would do – heckle the heckler. Well not really, but I did use humour to deflect the sudden tension in the room. From that moment on I have approached every statistic with great trepidation.  Still skittish today I can assure you.

Going on with this argument, I have always found a disconnect between the reported level of social media activity and the actual. The stats would have us believe otherwise.  I’m acutely aware that I’m a sample survey of one but I do mix with all walks and spend a great deal of time amongst the digital elite. It is my digital brethren that I find most curious.

There is a high level of experimentation – that’s quite clear. However, when there’s only two of you in a bar late at night, and you’ve had a couple of brewskis, the big question comes out – hushed tones of course. ‘Psst – what do you think about all this social media stuff? ‘Cause I reckon it’s clunky and a great time waster’. Then you wait – you wait for your tippsy mate to respond. He looks you in the eye and you hope you have found a fellow sceptic. (Here’s a tip. Whenever you’re putting yourself ‘out there’ have a fall-back position. Something like ‘time waster, no, no I said time saver’). Well the answer I’m finding is that overwhelmingly, most are very passive users. Maybe more than 50% – but please don’t believe my numbers – you don’t know where I got them from.

Who else is suffering from stat-fag and has developed a more questioning attitude to social media’s value?

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