I have found that this word is used time after time by bloggers, Youtubers, and writers alike when discussing the self-tracking trend that so many people have adopted into their everyday lives during recent years. Countless self-tracking methods and accessories exist in the market, including Fitbit, Jawbone, Apple Watch, and even personal smartphones have built in fitness trackers added to them.
In addition to nearly every member of my family (both parents and sister), I fell victim to the self-tracking craze that comes with wearing a fitness band. Not only did the bracelet become an informative data method that provided me with the amount of movement I would participate in every day, but it also told me exactly the amount of calories I had burned and consumed based on the diet information that I religiously submitted. I found myself constantly refreshing the application that was conveniently synced to my cellphone. I came to the point where I became anxious about meals for which I was unable to access precise caloric information, for lack of the ability to have an “accurate” day logged. If I did not reach my “step goal,” I was not able to relax or sleep soundly at night. Further, I have found that with the culture of self-tracking comes a type of attitude or reputation of strength. However, this strength stems from the discipline and restrain that comes from over-regulating one’s own physical exertion and food consumption. Also, I have come to determine that self-tracking does not promote a sense of content or happiness with one’s self in the present. By this, I mean that there is largely a theme of “goals” involving weight loss, fewer calories eaten, and more steps taken. There exists an attitude of “Awesome! You lost five pounds. Now shoot for only three more. You can do it!” This provides a contrasting element and false sense of support to an already stressful lifestyle. I remember my fitness bracelet buzzing and alerting me to “Get moving!” or my phone sounding and telling me “Hey, you took even more steps than yesterday! Keep the trend going for the rest of this week.” While this type of coaching may work for some, for me (and I know for others), it feels it draining. I truly felt as though my goals of ideal beauty and perfection through fitness were unattainable in the long run. In “Self-tracking in the Digital Era: Biopower, Patriarchy, and the New Biometric Body Projects,” Rachel Sanders mentions this type of scrutiny that people are often subject to on their own accounts, discussing how these devices “compel [people] to internalize the watchful gaze, or to turn it upon themselves” (46).
While this technological revolution is one with many benefits, and while I absolutely support healthy living (for whatever that means for each individual), I think that the culture of self-tracking is one that sadly encourages obsessive behavior and can potentially lead to eating disorders. The Buzzfeed video that I have attached is one that I came across this week, and while it neither mentions nor shows a self-tracking device in the video, the woman who is portrayed with an eating disorder is seen logging her exact calorie intake and burn on a notepad before going to meet an old friend for dinner. The woman, who is ultimately is struck by the unplanned alcohol and french fries that she is expected to eat with her friend, is never able to truly relax at the dinner because of the various emotions that flood her mind, including guilt and self-disgust. The video offers an intimate look into the life of someone who constantly struggles with the hardships that come along with battling an eating disorder. This is exactly the type of behavior that often ensues in the self-tracking world. She herself tracks and monitors her diet and exercise to a frightening precision – the exact level of precision that fitness accessories provide.