The Quantified Self

Have you heard the terms “Quantified Self” or “Self-tracking” before? I have to admit that I have heard them for the first time last week. A radio talk show host was kind of against the idea of self-tracking. She saw this leading to others knowing about her personal data like when and how often she has gone to the toilet that day and what she ate for breakfast, etc. I find her stance on this topic absurd. After all self-tracking does not necessarily mean, you have to publish your personal data to the world but you can if you want to. It is like just because there is the functionality to upload photographs on Facebook you do not have to upload photos of you dancing on a table with a bottle of vodka in your hand but you can if you want to. I guess it depends on how extroverted and “exhibitionistic” you are.

I have quantified myself before and I am sure that many others have too. I just have to consider all the time I have gone on a diet, capturing my weight and body fat percentage was a must to track my weight loss. A couple of months ago I bought an electronic toothbrush, which came with a smart guide. I now know exactly how long I brush my teeth every time.

Self-tracking has been around for ages. Just think about all the women, who are against hormonal contraception and track their body temperature and other body symptoms everyday to identify their fertile days. Or all professional and amateur athletes certainly keep track of their fitness level. Even I kept track of my pulse rate and calorie burn rate during the short period of time I regularly went jogging.

In my opinion the technological advancements in the mobile phone industry has been conducive for self-tracking. Most mobile phones are constantly connected to the internet and subscribers have access to a plenitude of apps that support self-tracking. For instance, my husband loves Runkeeper because he can see keep track of speed, distance and the exact location of where he ran or cycled.
Another big change in my opinion is the whole social media element. Now you can easily share your self-tracking data via Facebook or other social media platforms and “show off” what you have been doing or exchange data with other like minded people.

Therefore self-tracking is not a trend, it’s a way of life. It can be a help in accomplishing small projects or experiments on a personal level. It can also be a way to live a healthy life by really knowing one’s body and be a form of early detection if something were to go wrong.

I also think it is a great way to tackle the problem of procrastination. By identifying projects and keeping track of key data, one can identify problem areas and also ensure success. Successful projects are important to build up one’s willpower and self-esteem and break out of the cycle of procrastination.

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5 thoughts on “The Quantified Self

  1. Hi — I have to disagree with you about social media. Not that it works, but that it works too well. Fewer and fewer Americans, especially teenagers, drag themselves away from the computer or game screen to go outside and actually play a game. Two students on five desks apart text each other, during class, and far less often speak to each other face-to-face. I believe that social media is a blight on society. For those of us who feel this way, (and who were no closer to a cell phone that Dick Tracy’s watch when we were kids,) social media, including texting, is a curse on the ability of individuals to socialize, which robs them of any need for courtesy, or polite speech, or even knowledge of their own language and how to use it. I know I sound like an old fart, but I believe FB, and Twitter, and all the others should be phased down to a reasonable level — no texting each other in class, no tolerance of the “u” and other internet abbreviations in school homework, and get us all of our butts, and outside.

    Long rant, Irene, and I apologize, but I’m leaving it, because I don’t hear anywhere near enough voices calling for limits on this stuff, and for positive use of the English language, verbally and by the written word.

    • I am actually on you with that point. (Wrote this in January and got to refresh my memory on what I wrote then.)
      The phenomenon is applicable to people all over the world. I am guilty of spending too much time online too. Sometimes I have the feeling that even married couples only communicate via FB, at least that is the impression I have gotten in certain cases. People break up online by changing their relationship status and I think that shows a lack of respect to the partner and is rude. Once in the train I observed 2 teenage girls talking to each other but they were not looking at each other. Instead they were texting/ surfing on FB on their iPhones!
      I myself have reduced the time I spend on FB & Twitter. I wrote another post about FB and how it is influencing friendships. I think that FB is losing its attractiveness to many people nowadays.
      I am shocked to hear that internet abbreviations are used in homework. There is absolutely no justification for that. As it is, I often write proper English status updates on FB. Something in me rebels to write grammatically improper sentences. Its difficult to do that on Twitter because of the character limitations.
      Thanks for voicing your views. Cheers!

      • I have seen this in adults — I have sisters who are addicted to FB. But what scares me most are the kids at 12 and 13 having heart attacks, because they sit around all day! Frightening.

  2. Tony says:

    Very interesting post, Irene. I knew a girl once who literally spend her entire twenties glued to her computer due to her obsession with social media. Mostly every friend she had was online. Kind of sad.

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