Discuss: The Dark Side of Self-Tracking

Everything has a dark side (Photo by Pixelicus)
Can self-tracking hurt you? We mostly talk about the positive aspects of self-tracking here, but it’s worth venturing over to the dark side now and then. 

Take this comment from Stefan on a recent discussion post:

“After spending some time playing around with the idea of what it meant to have a ‘primary’ eye, I did the following experiment: I covered it with an eye patch for a day, to see if the ‘secondary’ eye would get stronger. Here’s what happened: I temporarily went blind!” 

Kiel replied:
I think Stefan raised an interesting point concerning the potential of self-tracking/experimentation to harm the subject. It might be interesting to discuss what negative experiences self-tracking has personally wrought and what we would recommend to make the experience less negative.”

Read Stefan’s and Kiel’s full comments here.

I’ve also explored the emotional dark side of self-tracking in my poem “Why I Stopped Tracking“, though I’ve since resumed tracking a few consciously chosen metrics.

So now it’s your turn. Have you had any negative experiences with self-tracking? Were you physically, emotionally, or psychologically harmed or bothered in some way? What are the pitfalls for new self-trackers to avoid? 

Discuss away in the comments below!

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4 Responses to Discuss: The Dark Side of Self-Tracking

  1. Jeff says:

    I’ve yet to find a dark side, other than it does take time away from other activities. However overall I do see that time spent as a value add. I suppose you could find out something about yourself that you don’t like. The truth hurts!

  2. ChristianKl says:

    There’s the wonderful xkcd comic: http://xkcd.com/701/

  3. Bill Schuller says:

    After about 9 months of self tracking without much intentional anaylsis (baselining) I am getting frustrated that it is all for no gain. I have plenty of qurstions, but no time to look to the data for answers with two kids under 4 and a full time + job.
    While this limits my risk of disappointment in my progress, it doesn’t lower my risk of injury durring measurement and experimentation. Turns out that mood boosting St. Johns Wart has the potential to interfere with sleep, something I was trying to work on after coming off of a nightime infant feeding schedule. It turns out that mood and sleep were being more ffected by severe vitamin D deficiency. Now that I’m taking a prescription supplement, I have the tools to measure it’s affect on these “ancillary” indicators as well as blood chemistry. If only I had the tools to correlate my measurements without hours of csv exports and spreadsheet foo.

  4. Matthew Cornell says:

    OK, so the primary concern here is risk, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily the case that someone will change significantly her risk comfort level simply because she’s experimenting. Or will she? One factor is the power of peers – such as the influence of kids at school on trying smoking. Also, framing it as an experiment may work against safety if one adopts a “It’s just an experiment” attitude, perhaps as your dominant eye example demonstrates. Another possible dark side I’ve thought about is trying too many experiments at once, such as what caused Alex to back off from her self tracking. I think a safety valve for this is to collaborate with fellow experimenters (a practice – or is it a principle?) that I’m writing about in my book. I guess “safety first” applies, except in the case of where the risk of experimentation is outweighed by the risk of *not* experimenting, such as when faced with a serious health problem.

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