The Tyranny of Stats, Fitbit and otherwise

Your stats are boomingH and I were listening to Radio 4 on our way home the other day. There was a somewhat alarming item on whether employees should share Fitbit data on their sleep, diet and exercise with their employers. Neither of us had the faintest idea why anyone would voluntarily do this which led to a discussion about the tyranny of Fitbits and their stats. When we went on our Italian walking holiday last year we noticed that all the cyclists had them, turning the holiday into a constant competition with themselves and their fellow riders. We congratulated ourselves, rather smugly, on not caring about how many steps we took and how, if we did, it would destroy much of our pleasure in the countryside, not to mention end in tears.

Sadly, however, I’m far from immune from the lure of stats. I sometimes rue the day I turned on my blog stats, checking them at frequent intervals, following that little line across the top of the blog which tracks hits, enjoying the euphoric highs of a crowd-pleasing post but not the dismay when the next one falls short. Before I went on holiday I was in the habit of checking them once a day but on my return I decided to get it down to once a week. What a liberation! Now I’m aiming for once a month. My original plan for this blog was to think and write about books I’d enjoyed and maybe post a few opinion pieces; the surprise bonus has been the sociability of blogging and the many book recommendations I’ve picked up from bloggers whose taste I share. Time to remember all that and get away from the tyranny of the stats page.

What do other bloggers think? Do you find yourself too caught up in how many hits you’ve had today or are you strong enough to turn your back on your stats?

36 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Stats, Fitbit and otherwise”

  1. i read a newspaper article last week about a guy who checks his blood glucose and fatty acids every morning plus tracks sleep, exercise etc. he has more gizmos than your average doctors surgery so yes you can get carried away…. as for blog stats, i don’t check every day – more like every few days but can’t totally ween myself away…

    1. I would imagine that’s one sure way to shorten your life- all that stress! I’ve enjoyed blogging much more since dropping the stats check habit.

  2. I started charging my FitBit (which I haven’t worn since the middle of May) just before I saw your post! I don’t really use it as a competitive thing, I’m keen (at the moment) to see whether I am walking as far as I think I am. Our recent house move means I’m not as accurate as I was previously as to how far places I tend to walk to are from the house. It’s more a fitness thing for me – I want to make sure I’m walking enough to eat cake in the local cafe when the urge takes me!

    As for the blog stats, I suspect my husband would tell you I’m a nightmare over them but that’s because he’s one of the few people to whom I can convey my excitement about them! When I first started the blog I checked them approximately every 90 seconds, now it’s a couple of times a day, but I’m not hung up on them anymore. I know which type of posts get the most hits but it doesn’t affect what I decide to write about. That way madness lies…

    1. I think living in Bath where it’s impossible not to climb a hill unless your house is slap bang in the middle and you rarely walk anywhere has meant that I don’t have to worry too much about keeping fit which keeps me off that particular hook. And you’re absolutely right, it would be insanity to allow your stats to dictate your blog content – endless crowd-pleasers would rot the soul!

      1. We’ve just moved three quarters of the way up one of Sheffield’s massive hills. I think where we were previously was pretty much the only extended flat bit right into the centre. I’m finding it easier than I thought I would but my dance classes haven’t started yet and that’s two hours (two back-to-back classes) with a 1.3 mile uphill walk home. That’s going to be a test!

        1. Naomi: I lived for a year in Sheffield some time ago, and now in a very hilly city in Cornwall. OK for walking, but a disaster for cycling – any way out of town involves a huge climb!

  3. Brilliant post Susan… very intetesting! In a past corporate life I was driven by numbers, extremely competitive and it’s a very hard habit to break… but break it I must. I have to! With issues & limitations that mean I can only ‘do what I can when I can’ if I let myself become hung up on numbers, tweeting & blogging would have a very negative effect, rather than the aimed for therapeutic one.

    I can really appreciate the draw of having what I tweet or blog ‘measured’ and checking those numbers but I’m surprising myself that I genuinely appreciate and value the odd reply & response more than the number of hits/followers/RTS etc.

    But of course on the blog front it’s very early days… I’m sure it’ll be an ongoing battle to resist the lull of numbers…

    1. Thanks, Poppy. Health is an issue for me, too, particularly stress which was part of my reason for turning my back on daily updates. Comments, as you say, are so much more rewarding that having umpteen people merely glance at what you’ve written then move on. Good luck with resisting that pull.

  4. Great post. I really do need to stop worrying about blog stats too. Worrying about it isn’t going to get them to increase and I don’t have the time or energy to make the numbers big. Plus it makes a hobby become something more and can take the pleasure away from it. I’ll stick to posting sporadically and hoping someone visits 🙂

    1. Thnaks, Janet, and I saw your tweet last week about this. Once it begains to feel like a chore I think it’s time to take a rest which is why I took this decision after my holiday. Much better to come back refreshed with a clearer perspective on things.

  5. I used check stats all day every day for the blog then my.numbers fell and I just look 9nce in a while I do like keeping track of my steps via in built phone app mainly as I’ve put a few pounds on last twelve month that I could do with shifting in the long term so a few more steps will do no harm

  6. OK, I’m a slave to FitBit. I find it just encourages me to move more.And what’s worse is that i even compete with other book bloggers for footsteps! I only aim to walk 10k/day, which is widely agreed to be a healthy amount and i just hope it will make me a healthier person. I need encouragement in that department and it gives it to me.

    1. I should note that i only track steps. I don’t care about calorie intake (a lot) or sleep or any of those other stats. Though it is interesting to note how many more steps I walk on days when i do laundry!

      1. I’m reading The Diet Myth at the momment, Tanya, and it’s fascinating. All about the part microbes play in our diet and in our weight. It also mentioned that natural fidgeters tend not to have a weight problem although I suspect that doeesn’t make you fit!

  7. I have a Fitbit, as an encouragement to be fit more than anything. But, I certainly wouldn’t share the data with my employeer, it’s not their business.

    I must say, I do like it when I see a spike in my blog stats, but I try not to become too obsessed.

    1. That’s the trick, not to become obsessed!
      It seems a bonkers idea, to me, to share that kind of information with you employer.

  8. I love to see the different countries that the stats show and am always amazed by how various it is, but I have to admit that I haven’t checked in a few weeks and haven’t written any reviews in a few weeks either, but if I am doing things on the blog, then I will check the stats, I don’t feel the need to completely deprive myself of that small, wonderous pleasure.

    I don’t have a fitbit, but have friends that do and over the summer a family member wanted me to try hers, but I said no, I’ve never been into weighing myself or checking things that might make me feel bad or guilty or create a habit/obsession that didn’t arrive naturally, I pretty much know know what they are going to tell me anyway, I know those days I need to walk further and not take the car, when to say no to dessert or a wine and yet I love being spontaneous and saying yes to things and then balancing it out later.

    I saw in a little local shop recently an old fashioned pedometer and I had to laugh when I saw it cost €3, so I bought it and showed it to my same family member, wore it for 2 days to see what my daily walk habit was (about 12,000 steps without doing exercise) and I havn’t worn it since, in fact I don’t know where it is now, but that doesn’t really matter, because it didn’t cost a fortune. I don’t have any expensive toys really, no apples 🙂 but I do love hearing about and reading of other people’s experiences, obsessions, etc, I find them endlessly fascinating and entertaining. In today’s world, there is always something new becoming available for people to attach to.

    For a hilarious true story about the fitbit, no one tops David Sedaris, check out this fabulous essay he wrote for The New Yorker.

    Stepping Out – Living the Fitbit Life

    1. Seeing the range of countries visitors hail from is one of my favorite bits of stats wathing, Claire. I’m not entirely denying myself the pleasure, just curbing my obsessive tendencies.

      Your pedometer story remined me of my brother’s obsession with his a few years back. No conversation with him complete without a detailed update. Thankfully he hasn’t mentioned it for some time and I don’t think I’ll bring it up, either. No wish to ignite that particular compulsion! Many thanks for the link.

  9. I was obsessed for the first 2 and a half years of blogging, curious and keen for the next three, moving towards indifferent for the next 2 and a half and this year I seem to have given up caring entirely. So I got there in the end, but it did take time! No point in me having a fitbit. It wouldn’t have registered a thing for about three weeks, I think!! But I completely agree with you – life is much better when you are not trying to compete about something – even just with yourself.

    1. Definitely! I think I’m on my way – happily checking only on the first day of the month – and interestingly have passed the two and a half year mark, or thereabouts.

  10. Interesting post Susan. I have a couple of friends who have a Fitbit and keep each other motivated by ‘competing’ with each other. I’m a spectator only! As for blog stats I maybe check mine at the end of a day when I’ve posted something out of curiosity but not in between posts. My blog is a more a personal record of my writing journey and doesn’t get big hits and if I was worried about stats I’d have given it up long ago. I write it because I enjoy blogging and if anyone reads it that’s a bonus. I’ve noticed that anything personal like my cover reveal gets more hits than a post that’s maybe about me reporting an event I’ve attended but it depends on whether a third party who’s mentioned RTs.

    1. Thanks, Helen. That seems a healthy approach to blogging – doing it for its own sake or as an adjunct to some other activity.

  11. Interesting piece, Susan. Like others who’ve commented here, I try to resist the stats, as I too don’t get big numbers, but do get a buzz out of visitors from exotic places. You’re spot on about the value of comments outweighing mere numbers, too. Interesting that you live in Bath (know it well; was at university in Bristol many years ago). Like Stu I have the iPhone health app & try not to check steps/Kms travelled too often; my wife is more obsessive, & tries to hit her target daily. The other day she and her sister were consulting the figures after a walk as we drove home – this is too much, surely! Nice to see a general, more personal post, btw; I’ve been doing a bit of this lately again, rather than just reviewing books.

    1. Thanks, Simon. Coincidentally, my partner – the ‘H’ of the first sentence – lectures at Bristol. Lots of hills there, too. Your comment about your wife and her sister made me smile but I’ve a nasty feeling that might happen to H and me – best avoided!

  12. I used to check them all the time, but moving my blog to its own domain has mostly cured that. Although I have auto-follows from the old site, I’m building up my audience again on the new site. I do probably check daily how many visitors I’ve had, but try to keep it to just that.

  13. I check my stats after I’ve posted but generally try to stay away. I posted a link to a free book and my stats went crazy but that just made me feel worse. Colouring books and giveaways get more traffic than my reviews which makes me question why I bother. I’m much more interested in comments.

    1. That confirms my decision not to get involved in giveaways, thank you! I have to say that after two weeks away from stats on my new monthly regime, I’m enjoying blogging much more. You’re quite right – comments are much more interesting.

  14. My sister wears a Fitbit. When she came to stay recently we went shopping together. We walked into town, which is a three mile round trip. Her Fitbit confirmed what we all knew about the way she shops, because we walked another three miles around the shops. She’s very thorough. What I did like about it, however, was that it told her when she’d been sitting still for too long. I’m retired, but I had a sedentary job and I don’t think about getting up and moving around often enough.

    1. Interesting that it tells you things about your life other than how you’re doing with fitness. I know what you mean about a sedentary job. I think I was at my fittest as a bookseller – lots of walking around and weight-bearing exercise. It’s a very physical job.

      1. Who’d have thought?

        In the last couple of years at work I set an alarm in Outlook to tell me to stand up every half hour in the hope that it would become a habit, but it didn’t. Now I have to rely on common sense.

        1. I know! Lots of people think that booksellers sit around reading but truth be told if you have time to do that you’re on your way to closing down.
          My partner tried something similar, setting his computer to freeze every so often but he soon started subverting it. I hope the common sense route is working for you.

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