So for the past few months something odd has been happening to me. At first I thought it was a coincidence; then it repeated itself. Over, and over, and over, and over again. It has to do with clocks. Pretty frequently, when I make a conscious decision to check the time, I’ll see all the same numbers. So, 4:44, 1:11, 3:33, etc. But I believe in coincidence. I don’t really believe in determinism. I tend to think a large part of existence as we know it is basically made up of odd, charming coincidences. So imagine my surprise when this repeated numeral clock phenomenon starting happening to me. So today — my day off — I’m finally reading up on it and trying to make some sense of it.
The skepticism is out there, to be expected. This guy thinks that there could be several rather simple explanations for the phenomenon, working in conjunction to actually make one’s chances of seeing these things fairly high. The first thing he mentions is that a digital clock readout with some sort of unique pattern is obviously far more memorable than a non-pattern. Our brains don’t remember 8:51 but do remember 11:11. He also proposes that clocks have a far more likely chance of having patterns in them then we’d imagine because of the simple fact that clocks have very few numbers to work with. Especially on a non-24 hour clock: hours only go to 12 and minutes go to 59. In most reported cases, the digits are small — 11:11, 3:33, 1:11, etc — which means that if most of the time the clock is showing smaller numbers, the likeliness of the pattern will increase.
But with all these reasonable explanations and my moderate personal skepticism, I still can’t help but feel something when it happens. It amazes me. Even with all the evidence the above article presents to say, “not a big deal, it’s just coincidental”, I still can’t help but think how unlikely it is. Now I’m running the numbers in my head: 1440 minutes per day… divided by 2 for a non-24 hour clock is 720 minutes (or, 12 times 60). Now in my case I’m only noticing repeated numerals, all the same. Which means there is only 6 options, right? There’s 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, 5:55, and 11:11. 720 possible combinations divided by 6 options equals 120. Now divide 1 by 120 and you’re left with a .0083 (repeating)… A .83% percent chance of seeing a repeated numeral time on a digital clock. That isn’t much. You have a better chance of dying in a car accident, which hovers around 1%.
So I keep coming back to the question of, “if something so unlikely keeps repeatedly happening to me, what does it mean?”. And that I cannot say. I’ve got a few numerology pages up on my tabs right now that I’ve been digging through. Believe it or not, a whole slew of people have experienced this phenomenon though. It happens all the time to people. Particularly with 11:11 (which is the time that I first started seeing repeat itself; then it evolved to include the other 5 of the 6). This page has hundreds of reports and testimonials from people, collected from 1996 to 2006. Surprisingly, the Wikipedia page on the 11:11 phenomenon has given me quite a bit of insight. It’s related to Synchronicity: a concept developed by Carl Jung which states that “just as events may be grouped by cause, they may also be grouped by meaning”.
It’s also odd that I’m experiencing this now because we’ve just passed November 11th, 2011… 11/11/11. Which the Huffington Post dubbed the “Greatest Binary Day of All“. In fact, in the past two years we’ve seen a number of binary days (dates consisting of only 1′s and 0′s). The next binary day is January 1st, 2100.
Of course, I could be succumbing to some amount of confirmation-bias and/or post-hoc analysis. Either way I find it to be incredibly interesting. Now that I’ve thought about it consciously for some amount of time I wonder if it will keep happening. The key is to think about it though… to not look at clocks just for purpose of seeing if there’s a repeated numeral time.