2015-04-15

The Problem With Good Things

There are a rash of fresh headlines about the allegedly deleterious effects of fitness apps:


Etc., etc.

The idea seems to be that some users of fitness tracking smartphone applications get so preoccupied by maximizing their data that they start to worry, suffer anxiety, over-exert themselves, and so forth. 

Imagine if someone suggested that knowledge itself were harmful because, once you know that knowledge is possible, you may quickly start to worry about not possessing it.

It seems silly, but I vividly recall a conversation I once had with a close friend. I was telling this friend of mine all about my fabulous wife, then girlfriend. I was discussing what we had done the previous weekend, and a few things that she had done to demonstrate a few of her many great qualities. This friend of mine suddenly became sullen and withdrawn. After some questioning on my part, my friend told me that it hurt to hear about all the wonderful things I was doing with my girlfriend because the friend did not have a romantic partner. 

I remember being stunned. Here I had shared a big part of my life with my friend, hoping to receive some positive empathy, and really just making harmless conversation, and the friend instead took it as though I was rubbing everyone else's face in what a good life I had.

And so it goes with fitness apps. It's not enough that they can track our every caloric expenditure (and acquisition), geo-locate us anywhere in the world, automatically parse our bio-markers by time of day, and so on, and so forth. We now ask them to insulate our fragile egos from suffering the blow of not having had a perfectly healthy day!

The problem with good things, it seems, is that some people feel bad for not having them. If only there were an app that delivered narcissistic supply. Perhaps I should develop one.