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Am I addicted to data?


I learnt a lesson from a surprising source which makes me question if I really need all the data I constantly consume or if I am in fact a Data Junkie?

Apparently, data addiction is a real thing... It's a phenomenon that affects a growing number of people in today's digital age. This addiction is characterised by an excessive need to constantly check for new information, whether it be from the devices and apps we use, or from social media, news websites, or the plethora of other online platforms.

But I don't believe I am addicted, at all... I need the data I have. As a techy with a software development background, I understand data as well as anybody... I'm a logical person, so how can I make decisions in my work or personal life without analysing the data first?

I get a constant stream of data from my phone regarding who's following my various social networks and how well each post is doing from a trends point of view, I get constant data from my websites telling me how many people are actually bothering to visit them, and at what time of the day, and from what country, and using which device...

I won't drive anywhere further than a few miles without setting up Waze so that I know how far I've gone, how far I have to go, how long to get there, how many slowdowns I may encounter and what the price of the diesel is on route... 

I am a type 1 diabetic and have a device which embeds itself into me so I can find out constantly what my blood sugar levels are. Once upon a time you really generally only needed this information before eating and driving and had to test using a cardboard strip at those specific times, but that's crazy! Now, I can find out at any and every minute of every day with my embedded real-time monitor giving me a pretty graph on my phone! Phew!

Data comes at me from everywhere, and I love it... No, I NEED it, because I can't function correctly without it can I? Besides, having this data is great, it's better to have it than not to have it is what I think. How can you live and make actual decisions if one doesn't have data on hand which can be checked (and constantly is) at any and all times of the day? I need my data up to date, relevant and precise! 

Everybody needs this... They do!... They DO!... Or at least that's what I thought until a strange discussion with our 16 year old lad.

It's January, and I'm on a health kick like everybody else. In fact, I've been visiting the Gym with our lad for a few months and so far, so good...

I have a smartwatch (surprise surprise), it's an Apple watch 7 which I upgraded from version 4. Since I was a teenager I've had a watch of some sort and feel naked if I go out without one on my wrist, because otherwise how would I quickly get access to the time?

The Apple Watch is amazing, especially when I am exercising. It can tell me everything I need to know from my heart rate, to how many calories I've burnt, how many hours I have been awake and active, my weight (it communicates with my bathroom scales) and of course is pretty good at telling the time. The watch is particularly useful at the Gym because it's perfectly accurate compared to the machines that don't know my height, weight, constant heart rate etc. 

Our lad on the other hand takes nothing but his headphones and water bottle to the gym. When I upgraded my Apple Watch I gave him my old one in the hope that he'll love having one as much as I do, he wore it for about a week at school and it never sat on his arm again... He couldn't see the point, he has a phone which will tell him the time if he really needs it, it's mainly just a music player and a tool for messaging friends, that's it!

But, Last week after the gym we were discussing our workout and how he warms up by running on the treadmill until he's burned 100 calories, he said he was surprised at how long it takes to reach that golden number! I just couldn't help myself... "You know the machine isn't right don't you? When the machine says 100 calories for me, my actual calorie count on my watch is around 140" and he asked me how I could know that for sure... "Well, my watch gives me the perfect number because it knows about me, if you wore YOUR watch then you'll get the proper data that you need"... Suddenly he was interested, he couldn't believe it, he'd been putting in all this work and the machine was lying to him, potentially he was burning more calories than he thought previously and he decided to wear the watch the next time to find out just HOW much more!

The next Gym session came and I made sure his watch had been charged, he put it on and did his warm-up... You can imagine how excited he was to find he'd actually burned 120 calories and how excited I was for our lad to finally understand the value of precise data! What a breakthrough. In the car on the way home, he expressed how crazy it is that the machines weren't correct and how he'd actually been using more calories than he had imagined all this time... 

There it was, the breakthrough, surely that was it, from now on he'd wear his watch all the time... He'd know all his vitals and data would become something important in his life... And we would all live happily ever after!

The next gym session came quickly and while driving there I glanced down at his arm and said "You've forgotten your watch!?"... he looked at me confused and said, "Why do I need it? I already know I burn 20% more calories than it says... Thats fantastic! What a bonus"...

He's right of course! For him, his goal was to reach 100 calories to warm up, but he still does that... The display on the machine is a goal, he realises that he uses more and that makes him even happier but nothing has changed regardless of how more precise it would be... 100 calories at that moment are no different to 120 because his goal is to hit 100 calories on that machine display, he doesn't care about the actual data other than curiosity and it makes him feel good because he's actually burnt more, it doesn't change his workout or how he feels after it one bit.

Why isn't data important to him? It's certainly opened my eyes that people can get through life without it, it won't change how I feel, but it has made me realise that I AM a data junkie and that maybe having access to all this information doesn't really change my life in any way, at least until I have to make a decision based specifically on it (which I could probably do by gathering the data I need in just that moment, as opposed to consuming it at all times). Do I need help? Or is my need for this data harmless?

I'm not sure, I've only just started thinking about this so don't have enough... Erm... Data... 


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