It is fascinating to realize our obsession with numbers and quantifiable measures as human beings. Ever since my iPhone started tracking my steps, I can’t help looking at it every day. I feel accomplished when I walk 10,000 steps a day even though I might have been doing that long before I started tracking steps. Quantifiable measures provide new goals to our lives and make us feel like we are more in control. As Jill Walker Rettberg mentions, “being able to measure something gives us the sense that we can control it” (p. 62). The graphical representation of the numerical data help us put them in perspective. Comparing number of steps we take, sleep times, or sitting time each day using charts help us get a sense of our habits. “We use the data to adjust the stories we already tell ourselves about our lives, and we use our stories about our lives to adjust, excuse or understand our data” (Rettberg, p.71).
The other side of this is the risk of over quantifying things in our lives and becoming obsessed with numbers. As in my example, I am kind of obsessed with the number of steps I take now because there is a measurement. The text talks about how baby growth charts can worry parents because everything is presented in percentiles. People have being giving birth for centuries without worrying about the growth of babies but since the option is available now to compare growth with numbers, it can create an obsession. I think trying to measure sexual activity using a phone app definitely take the obsession of tracking ourselves to another level. Same goes with trying to log how much deep sleep we get every night. Some of these activity logging serves no useful purpose but people still obsess over them.
All these apps and data we use allows us to see ourselves through technology. But, the problem is other people will also have access to see ourselves through technology. It’s one thing to voluntarily put our data out there but if companies are selling devices to track ourselves without our will, I think that is unethical. I see this everyday where changing status on Facebook or looking at something to buy on Amazon starts this chain of ads in my browsers and in all my social network platforms. The cookies on our browsers are used to personalize ads for us. As long as this monitoring of ourselves by other presents no harm we’ll be ok with it. The problem is we have heard too many stories about this information being used to do more harm. We do express ourselves freely through technology and enjoy doing so, we just have to be aware of the risks that it represents.