The other day I was going for a run. Yes, I like to run because it helps me clear my head and I use it as a therapeutic method to help relax my mind and body during such a tense period due to the coronavirus pandemic. This time I decided to take a friend along with me to ease the process of waking up early in the morning. I was introduced to an application called “Nike Run Club”, created by Nike. It is a platform that “gives you the guidance, inspiration and innovation you need to become a better athlete. Join us to reach your goals and have fun along the way.” I thought this was great, an application that will help keep me motivated and up to speed with my exercise. Everything was great until I saw this: “Track Your Progress”. The word ‘track’ and the concept of ‘tracking’ really threw me off. I suddenly felt observed and watched, almost as though Nike would watch me and track my every move. My friend thought I’m dramatic and she continued to tell me that we can add friends, similar to social media, and see where they run, for long, at what pace, etc… That was really when I put my foot down and said no! I will not allow technology to enter the only peaceful realm of my life and penetrate through the borders to disrupt it. We went on our run, my friend used her app, and at the end all her run was processed as progress and digital data. Numbers and colours letting you know whether you have reached your goals and whether you were good enough.
This had me thinking, everyday we willingly give up our information to large cooperations and applications in order to be measured and tracked. These softwares are built models that predict our actions, and the only reason they can do so is because we provide enough data in order to become part of the process. But I’m not here to talk about apps and technologies and say that we’re not safe, I want to talk about us humans who have become addicted to measuring ourselves and everything we do. We have the need to label and keep ourselves up to date and accountable to all our actions. Applications are created because they creator knows that there will be an audience and it will appeal to a certain demographic. Applications are selling us certainty. We take the output, what we receive, and see it as a fact.
There has been a shift in lifestyle, that makes measuring a natural process of life. We have become numbers. We are exploiting our own vulnerabilities without even realising. It’s a generations where we are always seeking for validation and approval. Whether that is through the number of likes we receive on a post or whether the Nike running app tells me I’ve ran enough today. We have curated our lives around a perceived sense of perfection and standards that are being placed on us through outsider cooperations. There is an imbalance in the power relations, we are being invisibly manipulated and we do not mind. We are made to believe that we have control. We are disillusioned into thinking that we have control over the information we provide. We are exploiting ourselves and turning ourselves into numbers for a larger machine.
Thank you George Orwell for having provided this generation with the wonderful phrase of “big brother is watching you”. It is so true. Our bodies are becoming machines or rather parts of a machine working as numbers in a larger concoction. We literally measure everything. Examples go from our likes and followers on instagram, to our activity on instagram, to how many friends we have on facebook, and health and wellness apps like Fitbit that ask for your gender, height, weight, body goals, how much calories you consume and how much water you drink etc… We literally keep track of everything we do. These apps reward you depending on how much information they can extract from the users. We have multiple big brothers watching us and that is because we give in to the system.
We our treating ourselves, our mind and body as a science experiments, constantly looking for and expecting results. It’s almost as though we are dissecting ourselves under the lens of a microscope along with the entire world watching our moves. This self absorption and constant need to look at what you do leads to a distorted perception of reality and oneself. I would like to focus quickly on the wellness and fitness apps because for me, they cause the most stress. How contradicting is that?? An app that is supposed to keep me sane is actually driving me crazy.
Fitness apps have been able to help keep many motivated but it can also create an obsessive behaviour which in turn causes more stress. There is a promotion of self recognition as the main underlying concept which asks users to only remain positive which can completely distort your perception of reality. A lot of mental health issues are linked to the use of such apps because health and the body in all its glory is a very sensitive topic. It has also been proven that activity-tracking decreases the enjoyment of any activity. As a woman, I can also say that due to all these apps and many social habits, a stereotype of the perfect woman has been ingrained in our minds, and we think we must always look a certain way. Abnormal standards of beauty are being projected onto us which makes most of these fitness app users women. But these apps in turn become an invisible enemy that makes you feel bad and guilty for not staying on track or letting go or eating too much/little.
My conclusion is that we need to do more things for ourselves without external influences. I feel like people are losing touch with themselves and the world surrounding them because they are all so focused on the next post or next time they can have a satisfying boost of dopamine from the Nike running app, letting them know that they are doing great. Stop relying on the outside, stop allowing apps to control you, and please stop measuring yourself.