Fitbit obsessed

Posted to Self-surveillance  |  Tags: ,  |  Nathan Yau

After you’ve collected data about yourself for a while, you tend to go one of two ways. You either quit completely because it’s no longer interesting, or you obsesses over your data points constantly trying to one-up yourself. David Sedaris took the latter and wrote about his experience for the New Yorker.

At the end of my first sixty-thousand-step day, I staggered home with my flashlight knowing that I’d advance to sixty-five thousand, and that there will be no end to it until my feet snap off at the ankles. Then it’ll just be my jagged bones stabbing into the soft ground. Why is it some people can manage a thing like a Fitbit, while others go off the rails and allow it to rule, and perhaps even ruin, their lives? While marching along the roadside, I often think of a TV show that I watched a few years back—”Obsessed,” it was called. One of the episodes was devoted to a woman who owned two treadmills, and walked like a hamster on a wheel from the moment she got up until she went to bed. Her family would eat dinner, and she’d observe them from her vantage point beside the table, panting as she asked her children about their day. I knew that I was supposed to scoff at this woman, to be, at the very least, entertainingly disgusted, the way I am with the people on “Hoarders,” but instead I saw something of myself in her. Of course, she did her walking on a treadmill, where it served no greater purpose. So it’s not like we’re really that much alike. Is it?

I wonder which direction people choose when they start to track their heartbeat with the Apple Watch next year. My hope is for a peaceful middle ground, but I suspect it’ll fall into the category of not-that-interesting-after-first-week.

Favorites

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of 2015

These are my picks for the best of 2015. As usual, they could easily appear in a different order on a different day, and there are projects not on the list that were also excellent.

Years You Have Left to Live, Probably

The individual data points of life are much less predictable than the average. Here’s a simulation that shows you how much time is left on the clock.

The Most Unisex Names in US History

Moving on from the most trendy names in US history, let’s look at the most unisex ones. Some names have …

A Day in the Life of Americans

I wanted to see how daily patterns emerge at the individual level and how a person’s entire day plays out. So I simulated 1,000 of them.