Self-Tracking as a form of Self-Competition

Through personal experience, I can say that individuals are becoming increasingly self-aware due to today’s availability and demand of communication and technology. I myself have used many different apps, such as MyFitnessPal, and even a Fitbit. They provide a quick and easy way for me to keep up with my health and well-being, through monitoring both my diet and fitness. In her article, Karen Dewart McEwen’s addresses this through self-tracking which comes in many different forms, but is focused specifically on health and fitness, as well as productivity and time management. 

Dewart McEwen discusses self-tracking practices through a Marxist capitalist lens, where the self-trackers come to see themselves as labourers in an unpaid economy. As I discussed in my last post, the previous articles we have read all see competition as a bad thing, where we are all competing to one up one another. If we consider Garcia et al.’s view on competition, self-tracking can be considered a situational factor in motivating competition with oneself. It is a form of competition not with one another, but rather with oneself. And instead of this competition with yourself leading to any kind of harm, it eventually leads to individual productivity and internal happiness. 

As mentioned in the article, health and fitness self-tracking platforms are there to encourage their users to set and achieve goals for self-improvement. For example, the MyFitnessPal app allows one to monitor their calorie intake, as well as calories burned through any kind of exercise. If one wishes, they can even set a weight goal for themselves and the app will automatically adjust the goals to help one achieve this weight. Thus, in a way this can be seen as competition with oneself, as one is ultimately trying to improve and better themselves through setting targets. Another example would be the Health app on Apple devices, which allows one to track their steps. Here, one can count their steps on one day and then aim to achieve a higher number on the following day, which is also a form of self-competition.

As jhk26 mentioned in their post, competition is inevitable as it provides merit, and self-tracking can be one way of achieving merit through competition with oneself. It is an individualized process, which is about one’s internal feelings and self-fulfilment. Individuals set goals and then work harder to improve and do even better, with their own well-being and happiness in mind. 

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  1. Thank you for your response. As discussed in class, and from your article would it be correct(?) to infer that women will perform better in apps like MyFitnessPal where you have internal competition?


  2. Thanks for your post, you made a lot of interesting points! You state many of the pro’s for self tracking and self competition, does this mean your argument is supporting a claim that self competition can’t be harmful? Do you have any thoughts on people who become obsessed with breaking their own records? What about when this obsession takes over a person’s life and it becomes their sole activity of interest, and they neglect their relationships and other hobbies?


  3. Hi there, thanks for your question. I believe that self-competition can come in many different forms, both healthy and unhealthy. Whether it is harmful or not is greatly dependent on the type of competition and situation an individual is in. As discussed above, many of the self-tracking apps allow people to set goals for themselves and each day they are able to work harder to achieve them. So in this way I think that self-tracking apps are not exactly harmful as they provide realistic goals for individuals and usually no time frame to achieve them. So while using the apps, they are still able to allocate time towards other activities in their life.


  4. Hi there, thanks for your question. I think that from the discussions we have had in class it would be safe to assume that men are more competitive in most environments. However, since you are referring to internal competition I think that maybe women may be more motivated to take part in it and thus perform better in self-tracking apps, whereas men would perform better in more direct, face-to-face competition.


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