Hello World. I'm Ankita.

Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.

Social Analytics Can Reshape You & Your Health (Literally)

Last winter while at an informal college reunion, a friend I hadn’t spoken to in ages turned around and point blank asked me – “Do you FitBit?” Do I what? She immediately whipped out her iPhone and started showing me her stats. The FitBit, as it turns out, is a little device that can best be described as a pedometer for the digital/social age. An ordinary pedometer will track the number of steps a user takes, but the FitBit takes it one step further and draws up a personal dashboard with stats on your activity, sleep effectiveness, elevation gain/stairs climbed, etc. – all of which is conveniently accessible through the web or via the FitBit iPhone/Android App.

The quantitative and data-driven person that I am, I took the bait and stepped into the world of personalized analytics and haven’t looked back since.

Personal analytics on FitBit

Personal analytics on FitBit

One of the first things that I noticed when I joined the FitBit community was how many individuals were using the FitBit as a catalyst for weight-loss and revamping their health. Does it really work? In the fast-food, everything-at-our-fingertips and diet-fads galore world we live in, I was skeptical that a glorified-pedometer could really be behind the miraculous health changes that the FitBit users and community were going ga-ga over.

Several months of using the device myself and I am beginning to realize the true beauty of the device: harnessing peer pressure for positivity.

Over the past few years especially, there has been an uproar about how media’s portrayal of ‘beautiful’ individuals has lead to an international crisis in health: younger and younger girls going on ‘diets’ to be like the women they see on TV, anorexia/bulemia becoming a bigger problem, etc. At the same time, the health of the general population continues to degrade, cardiac problems continue skyrocketing, and obesity-rates alongside healthcare costs have reached an all-time high.

While politicians, parents, and school officials have tried their best to remedy the situation there is a reason nothing has thus far truly worked. New York can try to ban large soda quantities and First Lady Michelle Obama can passionately target American children through health campaigns, but such things won’t work because depravity and directives is fundamentally against human tendency.

The brilliance of FitBit (and devices like it) is that it feeds on a very basic human principle: we are social beings and, while we may refuse to admit it, peer pressure and our image among our peers is actually more motivational than directives or attempts at self control. FitBit brings social and gamification into the picture: it ranks you/your activity against your friends (and optionally against your groups or geography). In doing so, users cannot help but feel accountable for their actions (or in-action) and this is what drives the user from being a couch potatoe to actually moving. This is the secret sauce aiding the FitBit user to lose the weight and/or regain their health.

Friend rankings on personal FitBit dashboard

Friend rankings on personal FitBit dashboard

**One caveat – if you do not have friends on FitBit for you to be ranked against, or alternatively if your FitBit friends are considerably lazy/lazier than you, you probably will not see the positive social and health effects.

I have high expectations for the new trends in analytics – big data for enterprise or for personal gains like with the FitBit. Admittedly, I was not expecting something like FitBit for dogs…which is what company Whistle seems to be doing:

Whistle: FitBit for dogs?

Whistle: FitBit for dogs?

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This entry was posted on July 1, 2013 by in Health, Technology and tagged , , , , , , .
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