In a world that is increasingly becoming self-absorbed, technology is an easy thing to blame as it is constantly adapting to meet our everyday needs.
The true narcissist in all of us, is once again being awakened by new technological advancements which include the countless apps and devices that are tracking our health, fitness, lifestyles, sleeping patterns and who can forget our…ahh… bowel movements.
Society as a whole has set some of the most unbelievable and unrealistic standards of perfection – which are hard not to subscribe to – and for those who do not fit into the teeny tiny parameters, we are constantly fighting an uphill battle in order to achieve said perfection.
With hashtags such as ‘fitspo’, a nation gripped by the rising obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemics and the introduction of superfoods, technology has moved swiftly to accommodate for those of us who want to take matters into our own hands and improve our lifestyles by constant monitoring.
But by constantly monitoring our habits, are we only perpetuating these entrenched obsessions with numbers? From weight to whey and from sneaking an extra biscuit to skipping an extra kilometre, we are turning ourselves into number addicts.
Welcome to the quantified self.
The quantified self is any individual engaged in the self-tracking of any kind of biological, physical, behavioural, or environmental information – Swan, 2013
The quantified self, the numbers man, the digital dude. Whatever it may be, it is a craze that is sweeping the health and wellbeing community. Tracey (2013) found that seven out of ten adults regularly track some aspect of their health and over 60% of those adults track restrictively, their diets, weight and exercise regimes.
We have once again become slaves to technology. First it was social media and now it is the examination of ‘the self’.
Being able to measure something gives us the sense that we can control it. We can work to improve it, whether it’s a marketing campaign or our productivity or our health. Having measurements readily available can also make us forget about all the things we cannot measure – Walker Rettberg 2014, p.62
But the distinct line in the sand is yet to be drawn. The nature of these numbers means that it is a slippery slope into an obsessive addiction to track every minute, every detail of our lives.
Gary Wolf ended his Cannes Ted Talk with this poignant statement:
The self is just our operation centre, our consciousness, our moral compass. So, if we want to act more effectively in the world, we have to get to know ourselves better.
But at what cost? By strapping a technologically advanced device to our bodies, does it really mean that we know ourselves better? Or give us greater insight?
Yes, you may know how much coffee you drink or how well you sleep. But what happened to just soaking up every ounce of the day and just experiencing life through your own technologically advanced devices – your eyes, your skin, your tastebuds and all the other wonderful senses.
I do agree, in part, that there is some benefit to knowing these numbers but only if you have a medical condition or need it as a way to kickstart your motivation. But I do not see the long-term benefits of knowing yourself through these numbers. What happens if you lose it? Will your brain forget to tell your body that you are hungry? Or that you will forget that consuming twelve cups of coffee may not be beneficial for you?
I would much rather enjoy the quality life by not having to worry about what the quantity of numbers say today. Eat that extra doughnut, walk that extra mile or skip it because you cannot be bothered, get to bed earlier and wake up earlier.
My philosophy is that we need to step away from technology and start enjoying what is in front of us. We do not need numbers and devices to tell us that going for a walk improves our moods. Life is about balance and I can rarely get numbers to balance for me.
Because when was the last time a number made you truly happy?
Swan, M, (2013), ‘The Quantified Self: Fundamental Disruption in Big Data Science and Biological Discovery’ Big Data, vol. 1 no.2, p.5
Walker Rettberg , J, (2014)‘ Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves’ Quantified Selves, p.62