In thee, o Data, do I put my trust

Tell me, how many hours did you sleep yesterday? How many steps did you walk? Kilometers did you run? Views did you get on your Instagram story? What‘s your current heart rate? Your weight? How many calories did you consume? Where have you been yesterday at 2.32pm?

Let me guess; you can probably come up with the answer to most of these questions in mere minutes. Because you use a plethora of apps, body trackers and smart devices telling you these exact things. I know I do.

Humanity is addicted to metrics and quantification. We put a number on anything, transform it into pure statistics while trying to live our best selves. Because someone told us so. That we couldn‘t live our lives as proper humans if we don‘t sleep for at least 8 hours and 32 minutes, eat 65 grams of protein per day and run four semi-marathons every week. And that we were a failure if our social media output doesn‘t get at least 100 likes in the first 30 seconds. Or that we were failures if we don‘t work at least 60 hours per week.

The Quantified Self movement is our new religion. Data is our new god. We follow it and do whatever it commands. Tell me, when your watch tells you to stand up for a minute you probably at least considered it, right? It‘s for our well-being, marketing departments tell us. That we‘ll live miserably if we don‘t listen to them.

And yet all the Data-god does, is make people anxious. All these questions that annoy us: did I sleep the right amount of hours? Did I consume enough proteins and fiber for the day? I haven‘t reached my fitness goal yet, shall I go for a brisk walk? Why didn‘t this tweet get enough likes? I finished work after less than eight hours, am I even productive? And what about all the privacy issues?

The data-god does the exact opposite to our well-being than what it promises. It‘s our fault though. As usual, we couldn‘t do it in moderation and had to go all-in. And there‘s the keyword: Moderation.

Not that all these things are bad per se. We, or at least I, merely go overboard. Tracking every single shit and focusing on the mere numbers does the exact opposite of what it was supposed to achieve.

I decided to change that. I don’t need it. I know the basics. I know more or less how many hours to sleep (7-9), what to eat to stay healthy (a lot of veggies and legumes, some nuts, whole grains and no sugar) and to exercise regularly (I walk the dog twice a day at a faster pace and plan to start exercising soon). I know, from all the books I read, that you can’t work more than 4-5 hours productively per day.

BUT… of course, there‘s a but… that doesn’t mean that I will get rid of all the data I have. As I said, it‘s about moderation. There is value in at least some of it. It‘s about picking what you need to become a better person.

So I sat down, looked at what I track and chose what to keep. Here is what I came up with:

  • Meditation stats: I keep track of my meditation because I have a set goal of minutes per week. The more time I spent meditating, the better I feel.
  • Book goals: I want to read at least 52 books this year. I have a lot of catching up to do. So many unread books. I couldn‘t keep track without GoodReads.
  • Written words: I write at least 2500 words per week. Some of it will make it onto this blog. Most of it will never see the light of day. But I wrote them.
  • Exercise: I don‘t do this yet, but I am working on it. The idea with tracking exercise is not about goals but progress. How many crunches can I do in 30 seconds in week 1 and how many in week 6? I don‘t care for Nike points, or calories burned, or muscle mass gained.

That‘s it. I don‘t need anything else. I chose what I need and deleted the rest (which meant I got rid of Gyroscope, Moves and any social media stats). This should be enough. And if it isn‘t? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯