Competition Through Social Comparison Foster Self-Improvement

Up to this point, we have read many articles that convey competition as a ubiquitous concept that is widespread within our society. Similar phenomenon occurs in McEwen’s article “Self-Tracking Practices and Digital (Re)productive Labour,” as the author introduces and combines the concept of gamification (uses tactics such as point systems) with self-tracking practices (methods to monitor one’s daily activity patterns) to explain individual’s tendency to set self-improvement goals in comparison to other users. This has led me to believe that competition triggered by social comparison is a healthy method to foster self-improvement.

As @rosalynnine has mentioned Garcia et al’s idea of ‘Social Comparison Theory,’ individuals are, indeed, driven by other’s relative level of performance. In McEwen’s article, the author argues that an online community in mobile apps can foster self-improvement as it compares one’s progress to one’s peers’. For instance, RunKeeper is an app for tracking exercise activities that connect the users (as self-trackers) to record their progress and also monitor other’s daily progress. From this platform, the users are exposed to a gamified environment in which the workout rewards (nominal values) and achievements (trophies) are granted by participating in virtual races that are competed against other users. Hence, social comparison in the online platform creates self-trackers to self-improve by competing with others. 

Unlike Berg’s ‘Red-blue Exercise’ which allows teams to earn points at the expense of the other team, gamified self-tracking practices allow users to monitor each other for the achievement of individual goals without depriving others. Hence, rather than trying to keep the status quo, users increasingly engage in an ongoing intervention in the present state of the self-bettering the future through the social comparison. In essence, this framework for self-improvement sets a virtuous cycle for continual personal goals as it does not result in winners nor losers.



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