The Numbers Game
I've never been very good at math or had a mind for numbers. Any mathematical transactions I attempt are accompanied by a calculator. It used to be that I could escape numbers because I was focused on arts and humanities in my studies, and could safely leave math, for the most part, behind. With the advent of social media, all that has changed. Everything has become about numbers.
In the latest version of Instagram, they've removed the all-important "number" of likes which had a surprisingly profound effect on me. That's when I realized how deeply the numbers game was eating away at me. I felt an immediate sense of relief when scrolling through my Instagram feed in the absence of numbers. I no longer felt inadequate, unpopular or broken. They had finally provided an escape from this high school "Who's the most popular?" mentality. It's probably one of the most ethical things they've ever done.
Ever since I became a full-time yoga instructor, numbers have taken on an increasing amount of importance, much to my chagrin. Social media has become a determining factor in a teacher's "popularity" and is capable of, even necessary in, attracting high attendance rates at classes. The ethical quandary here is: popularity does not equal competence or integrity. There are very popular yoga teachers who are not very skilled and very skilled yoga teachers who are not very popular.
I certainly wouldn't choose a surgeon based on how many followers they have on Facebook or Instagram. So why do we do that with yoga instructors? The numbers game also forces yoga teachers to become crass self-promoters. It's one thing to promote events, workshops and trainings. But now, everything we do, say, eat, wear is touted on social media, reinforcing this drive to solidify self-importance, which is in essence, the opposite of yogic philosophical principles. It also contributes to the cult of personality, doing away with a focus on quality of instruction and replacing it with some glossy, highly edited and marketed image.
Some of the most experienced, talented yoga teachers I know barely register on the social media radar. They have a small number of followers and infrequent posts. They don't do acrobatics or pose in spandex in random public places but they sure can teach a hell of a yoga class. The best way to choose a yoga instructor is direct experience. Forego the bells and whistles, the marketing gimmicks and popularity contests. If you're new to yoga, do some research. Go to as many studios as you can. Try out as many teachers as you can.
As Bryan Kest said in a recent lecture, the yogis of old were some of the ugliest people you could ever find. They weren't focused on the external, but the internal - the eternal. Why are we so focused on all that is fleeting and temporary - youth and popularity - instead of turning inward and cultivating a true sense of self, undeterred by the numbers game.