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The chains of modern civilization could be linked to technological devices in times of the cult of productivity and hyper-individualism. We record everything we do, translating our steps, efficiency and even our hobbies into digital data. Have we become addicted to and slaves of self-control?
A few years ago, self-tracking was related to niche wellness practices with wearables and apps that collected and analyzed data about the user’s activities and physical health. At the time, the use of these functions seemed to simplify our lives to stay in shape.
Over time, the cult of productivity has permeated all spheres of the capitalist system, leading us to quantify everything we do. The “quantified self” is then established as a cultural phenomenon centered on self-tracking through the monitored use of all our gadgets, such as the iPhone’s built-in function, productivity with Momentum or Forest, or hobbies such as reading with Goodreads. Artificial intelligence and databases thus invade our entire living space, even those spheres relegated to leisure and hedonism.
Monitoring and distorting the leisure industry
Platforms such as Goodreads or Letterboxd become a sample of the quantified self as a community network of users and creators of self-tracking tools that share this interest in self-knowledge through numbers. Both platforms have a collective and interactive aspect that leads reading or movie lovers to exchange recommendations or opinions on trends or tropes of the moment.
On the other side of the coin is that of rewarding excessive consumption, creating high needs for the user to keep up to date so as not to be left out of the game.
In this sense, everything you do is compared to the rest of the avatars who must perform their activities to the best of their ability, crossing the meaning of leisure to distort it in the form of a task or obligation. Goodreads’ annual reading challenges would be an example of this, with thousands of bibliophiles competing to reach those unrealistic and unhealthy goals, generating stress in an era of omnipresent social machinery in which everything is measured, compared and displayed. In a system that prioritizes and rewards speed and abundance, not the absorption of knowledge and life lessons.
Self-monitoring is reductionist and nothing on the Internet is a reflection of real life, no matter how accurate the figures or digital data we upload every second of our existence may be.