Both my parents were tailors and sewing was a constant activity in our house. Dad conjured jackets and suits out of rolls of cloth and canvas, while Mum’s hand-sewn buttonholes were works of art.
But there were pins everywhere. Often sticking in our feet: ouch!
One day, some of those typically pointless questions popped into my head: How many pins are lost? How many pins wear out? How many pins are there in the world?
Even though the answers existed, there was no way to calculate them and the numbers would have been meaningless.
Yesterday, while out walking with the FFFC with my phone tucked firmly in my pocket, it struck me that the number of social media comments and likes must be similarly incalculable.
Way back when I started networking online, there were conversations: post + comment + reply + further discussion . . .
On many platforms now, a post is often followed by ‘Beautiful’ or ‘❤️’ if a selfie and very often aggressive or deliberately provocative comments with no actual discussion following text posts. I looked at an MP’s tweet that demonstrated this: every commenter voiced an abrasive opinion separately and no conversation developed.
How much time did these take out of commenters’ lives? How many other comments do they make? Do they achieve anything? What does it do to a commenter’s state of mind?
Finally, how much network capacity, storage and energy do these responses consume?
Probably so many billions that, like the quantity of pins, the answers are meaningless, but at least a pin had a point.