Over-Quantified Self

Tonight’s episode of MedX Live covered the topic of self-tracking and touched on components of the quantified self movement. The whole thing is worth watching, but I want to bring up one of the questions that the panel discussed: the notion of an “over-quantified self”, the idea that you can collect too much data.

The whole Quantified Self movement is quite curious from my perspective. As someone who has to actively self track to stay alive, I’m intrigued by the the individuals who elect to embark on this data-based endeavor for reasons not related to carb counts and blood glucose control. But regardless of the purpose, I do think there’s a risk of worrying about too much at once. If you try, really hard, you can collect all kinds of data on everything you do. The risk for burnout is ever-present if you don’t control yourself.

That’s why, despite the numerous benefits, I haven’t worn my Dexcom for the past 36 hours. This device has revolutionized my diabetes care, but sometimes I need to walk away from the endless supply of data points and actionable intelligence. Sometimes I want to just be, rather than be obsessed with trends and tendencies and numbers.

Can you over-quantify yourself? Sure. Is it okay to take a break and un-quantify yourself? Sure. I think knowing when to take a break is just as essential as knowing when to take everything you’ve learned from your data collection and turn it into a proper and meaningful lifestyle change.

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