The Uproar

The Numbers Game

From GPA to Instagram followers, we're engulfed in figures, and the effects are destructive

photo by Kaycee Orwig

photo by Kaycee Orwig

Kaycee Orwig, Principal Photographer

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We live in a society obsessed with numbers — the number on the scale, the number in our bank accounts, the number following the letters GPA on our transcripts. Numbers, though, merely represent quantity. Yet we allow these figures to control our lives, which in turn creates an impossible standard for all human beings to live up to.

As Gen Z, we have taken this obsession with numbers beyond what it ever was before. Now, social media enables us to see our friends’ giant houses, our classmates’ toned beach bodies, and everyone’s college acceptance letters.

Rather than acting to benefit society by keeping us plugged in, social media acts to perpetuate feelings of jealousy towards our peers. Because of this, people who use the most social media platforms are three times more likely to suffer depression and anxiety than people who use the least amount, according to a 2017 study published in Psychiatric News. Our society unintentionally puts so much pressure on its members that they turn to destructive habits.

Numbers cause us to want more: more zeros at the end of our bank account balance, more weighted grades to stoke that 4.0, and more numbers following the heart symbol on our Instagrams.”

Take me, for example. In ninth grade, I wasn’t especially active on social media; however, I compared myself to just about everyone at school. I wasn’t that popular,  and Instagram only acted to perpetuate my anxiety. I ended up feeling so uncomfortable in my body that I took drastic steps to change it. I lost too much weight, and in the fall and winter of eleventh grade, I knew I was too thin. Yet, I was obsessed with the number on the scale and what people thought of my body. I wanted to be desirable, and the only thing that told me how to do that was social media’s idealistic view of women and the thousands of weight loss programs glorified on television.

It’s not only body image, though.

Numbers engulf us, from Instagram followers to the crown jewel of the numbers game, the GPA.  In a school where straight A students may not even be close to receiving an invitation to the Top Scholars Banquet, the GPA race brings out some of our worst impulses.  Do we take weighted classes because of the course content or the grade boost? Do we snoop around in search of the identity of the top-ranked students, even though the school’s stated policy is not to report class rank?

Our obsession with grades can diminish the fun of our high school years and is often a reason students feel overly stressed. Add a job and sports on top of that and it’s the recipe for sleep-deprivation. Yet, many of us, who seek the approval of parents, teachers, and peers, strive and stress for the grades to earn us that exemplary number on our transcripts. In reality, though, when we are out of high school, out of college, and out in the real world, no one is going to ask about our high school GPA. So why do we put so much weight on this number?

Numbers cause us to want more: more zeros at the end of our bank account balance, more weighted grades to stoke that 4.0, and more numbers following the heart symbol on our Instagrams.

Of course, Gen Z and its social media platforms are not all bad, and neither is our obsession with numbers. Social media can be a platform to advocate for positive change, and numbers are used every day to keep society functioning smoothly.  Despite these advancements, however, we must try harder to not allow numbers to lure us into destructive envy and useless comparison.

 

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The Numbers Game