Too Much Information

We live in a time where it’s very easy to get a lot of detailed information. This is true for things that are happening in the world, but also for our body.

Many people wear smartwatches and activity trackers. These watches and trackers provide information about how much you walk or move and in some cases additional information like your heart rate and the number of stairs you climb per day.
I personally wear a Fitbit Charge 2 and I love it. Knowing how much or how little I moved on a particular day motivates me to go for a walk around lunchtime, or to go out after work when I would have otherwise crashed on the sofa.

Smartwatches get smarter all the time though and activity trackers continuously add new features and more detailed analysis.
For example, my Fitbit recently added detailed analysis of “sleep stages”. If you wear your Fitbit at night it will tell you how much time you spend awake, in REM sleep, in deep sleep and in light sleep. You can track your own statistics (progress is probably not the right word in this context) and you can see a bench mark of averages for people of your gender and age group.

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It was useful to see that over a period of a couple of weeks my sleep statistics were around what’s average for women in my age group in terms over percentages per sleep stage. I don’t sleep enough hours per night on week days, that is clear, I don’t even have to wear my Fitbit for that insight.
What having all of this information available to me did do is that it almost made sleeping a match. Something that could be won. “Are my statistics today “better” than yesterday?”, “Are my statistics at least on par with the bench mark, or better, whatever that may be in this case?”. When I woke up at night for whatever reason, I tried not to move, to not alert my Fitbit to the fact that I woke up and “mess up the statistics”.

I realize that this is at least partially caused by my silly competitive nature, but after few weeks I realized that knowing my detailed sleep statistics doesn’t add any value for me. Having all this information available to me didn’t change my behavior (a lot of it can’t be directly influenced). But more importantly it made me less happy. Luckily the solution was easy; I no longer sleep with my Fitbit on.

This experience made me realize that sometimes gathering more and more data about all the details of our lives and our bodies might not be helpful or beneficial. If the data that’s gathered can make me aware of a bad habit, or if it can motivate me to develop better habits, or even if it just makes me happy then by all means, keep feeding me the information.
However, if the overload of information cramps my style, I don’t want to know and I choose to be blissfully ignorant.

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