The Quantified Self: Are We Tracking Too Much Of Our Lives?

Daily step count? Check. Number of calories burned? Check. Hours spent sitting? Check. Number of disruptions during sleep? Check. My exact location, right at this moment, ready to be beamed out to all my friends? Check.

In many ways, this has become our lives: tracked, quantified and summarized. Our every move and even the inner workings of our body are now sent straight to our phone.

Sure there are positives for such a well-charted and numbered life, but we have to ask ourselves: are we tracking too much?

Fitness tracking, now a billion dollar industry, was created with good intentions. The devices were developed to not only motivate average Joes to add some extra activity into their lives but to give anyone a personal blueprint of their bodies’ inner workings.

Suddenly, things like heart rate, calories, and sleep patterns aren’t just some mystery measured by the doctor every now and then, they were real accessible numbers delivered to us every day. So, in theory, this sounds great for the busy college girl looking to stay on track. And let’s be honest, some apps and wearable devices are just plain gorgeous. But for some reasons, the trackers usually don’t stay on for more than a few months. In fact, a study by CCS Insight found that 40 percent of activity tracker owners stop using them after six months. And here’s why:

1. We are not Jillian Michaels

What was supposed to make us feel all spandex-ready motivated, can instead end us making us feel pretty dang bad. Sometimes we want that donut ice cream sandwich (yes, it’s a thing). And sometimes life completely throws off our schedules, sleep, and steps. We all need those moments to hit pause and refresh. But constant accountability and seeing health numbers plummet, and even worse seeing your overzealous little sister’s always super successful numbers skyrocket as yours plummet can make you feel like you just failed a major life test.

2. And another app.

Instead of subtracting, trackers can add to the clutter of your life. We are already so busy with school, work, activities, and friends, and while trackers can keep us organized, they can also just be another distracting piece from enjoying others’ company and getting things done.

3. Obsession hurts.

If you have a tracking device strapped to you 24/7 you can’t help but constantly think of meeting goals. It’s almost as if you have a personal life coach looming over your shoulder for every. single. moment. Plus, judging, measuring and quantifying our basic bodily functions that we previously did not think twice about can cause us to get consumed and obsessive overachieving your most perfectly quantified self. We lose sight of the inspiration and the joy that the tracker was meant to bring.

4. It just doesn’t work.

Well, it mainly works. But the numbers just aren’t perfect, and we still end up looking to them as a reliable health source. Rachel Feltman, a tech journalist for Quartz, wore four fitness trackers at once, her results reflected the widely-held notion that there’s a roughly 10 percent difference between various step readings.

5. We are all different.

One of the major intrigues of fitness trackers is the social aspect. We can compete with friends and family on the app for an extra boost of health motivation. Good for a little fun, friendly competition, but these comparisons can produce jealous, obsessive, or even self-deprecating behaviors. We each have a different body and different lifestyle, so broad comparisons shouldn’t hold much weight.

So while we are all for putting health at the forefront of our daily lives, we need to think twice before continuously tracking and quantifying our behaviors. See your health as a holistic mind/body balance, start with simple tactics and remember, it is not the numbers that always count.

News Reporter

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