The dark sides of the Quantified Self

Behaviours and habits are inherently difficult to change. Not least those that affect a person’s health and wellbeing. This paper explores two aspects of consumers’ use of wearable activity trackers. First, the impact on actions and behaviours and second, how consumers’ experience their relationship with the tracker. An exploratory approach was adopted utilising a mixed-methods approach with female consumers.

 

We identified two distinct user groups, the engaged and hyper-engaged users, and four themes, which reflect health-related behavioral change, impact on self-satisfaction, technology-governed goal-driven behaviors and technology dependency and embodiment. We conclude that when consumers actively track and monitor their actions, some behaviours do change.

 

However, we also detected a darker side to the relationship involving performance pressure, dissatisfaction with results and a high level of dependency on the data to feel good about one’s performance. The research contributes with new empirical insight into how consumers interact with wearable technology, the implications for behavioral change and the darker sides of that relationship.

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Paper in the Frontiers of Psychology

How we discovered the dark side of wearable fitness trackers

Research presented at the American Marketing Science Conference, 2016