Socrates famously observed that, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. (That’s the sum total of my Socratic knowledge, but it’s left me feeling pretty smug, let me tell you). Yet perhaps the over-examined life is just as useless. More specifically, I wonder if the process of ‘life-tracking’, can actually replace the business of living.
What do I mean? Well, I’m not saying that self-analysis is bad in itself. (For starters, if that’s the case then I’ve just talked myself out of a blog). But we can become so obsessed with ourselves, that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Or unable to function or live, for fear of taking a wrong step.
One example of this is the proliferation of applications, sites and gadgets, designed to help you track and log your life. ‘The Quantified Self’ is a website that allows you to share the minutiae of daily existence with millions of others – from what time you go to bed, to whether you prefer shredded or shredless marmalade. (Shredded, since you ask).
At Daytum.com or Datablogger, you can upload what you ate for breakfast, your bowel movements or the streets that you pass on the way to work. To ensure your readers (aka ‘Mum’), get every detail, these can then be graphed in glorious technicolour. Waterworks will measure your daily fluid intake and on Dailymugshot you can share what you’re wearing each day. Then of course, there’s Tweet What You Eat or MyMoodTracker.com.
Not one wondrous skerrick of the complicated splendour that is you, need ever be missed again. But what do you do with such self-knowledge? Is it really the gateway to personal fulfilment? Or instead a slavery to self?