Fun fact #1: I used to work for a technology company which was all about the positive impact that wearable technology is going to have on our future.
Fun fact #2: wearable technology can trigger and perpetuate eating disorders.
While I worked for this company I started to learn more and more about the psychological dependency that individuals are beginning to have on their devices. For example, I never leave the house without my phone, and I can hardly go 10 minutes without checking it for one reason or another. While this fixation and dependency is troubling in and of itself, the link between fitness trackers and disordered eating is even more disturbing.
Think about it: have you ever used a fitness tracker? Maybe you’ve downloaded an app which tracks your weight loss or food intake. Maybe you’ve joined the fitness tracking bracelet bandwagon and purchased a fitbit or similar device. Personally, I’ve used a variety of “health tracking” apps on my smartphone and I’ve noticed a trend.
Specifically, my use of these apps coincides with disordered eating relapses. The apps might start out with good intentions, but they quickly turn into a point of obsessive data checking and recording. I start logging every single calorie that enters my body and keep track of the calories which my body is expending during any given activity whether it’s walking, jogging, sitting–even sleeping. It becomes an addiction.
Of course, this is not the case for everyone. There are plenty of people out there who use fitness trackers for healthier purposes, but even the best of us can get sucked into the hyper-awareness of fitness and food intake through the use of these tracking devices. This hyper-awareness is where I believe the use of such technology crosses over from normal to disordered.
For this reason, I believe that technology companies have an obligation to educate their buyers about the potential psychological risks involved in the use of their health trackers. If an individual is prone to perfectionism or disordered eating, they should be aware that there is some risk to become obsessive about the use of such devices. While these companies might brush this responsibility off with the insinuation that users should already be aware of this risk, I would argue that most people do not think about this when they are purchasing devices and downloading apps. It took me a long time to realize that my usage of the tracking apps was unhealthy and I don’t think I’m the only one who has ever fallen victim to this trap.
What are your thoughts? Do you think companies who produce these apps and devices should warn consumers about the psychological risks? Let me know below!!