Tracking Your Life on Your Blog Sidebar: Are You a Self-Quantifier?


I have always found comfort in lists and charts. It may have started with a worry – “oh I better write this down so I don’t forget it.” Somewhere along the way it turned into needing a viable record of how I’ve spent my time. A quantification of hours.

I used to drive my college BFF crazy – “you’re just writing down stuff just to cross it off! Do you really need to remind yourself to take a shower?!?!” Well, no, but yes. I need that big black X on the page (now screen) as validation. See? I’m not a total oaf. If nothing else, I did that, see that right there?

  • Study for finals
  • Eat
  • Write really big paper
  • Shower

Booyah! Two out of four! The day is not lost.

Photo Credit: To Do List via Shutterstock

I’m older now. My checklists and charts are now mostly electronic. But they are still there. It seems they may have even multiplied.  Before I walk anywhere, I turn the pedometer on in one of my handy phone apps. Every weekend, I make a list of things to do, activities to complete, food to make and systematically check the items off on my iPad, keeping track of what was done, what still needs to be completed. I’ve tried time and time again to keep a food journal – that eventually fades out after a few days – but I know people who swear by programs like Lose It to keep them focused on their weight loss goals. Running almost never happens without my RunKeeper app coming along with me. (why’s that girl running with her phone? Oh non-quantifier, you wouldn’t understand.)

Some people find this all a bit much. Others take it even further than me. In a recent article for Salon, John Rico confessed his obsession for tracking not just activities, exercise and meals, but sleep time, productivity, moods even (!) on his iPhone, and being a better person for it.

Not because he was counting what some people may see as minutiae, but because it allowed him to assess pieces of his self-image that may or may not be accurate. i.e. I am so busy!! When your activity tracker tells you, um, not really. You kind of waste a lot of time Or, I've been depressed lately, when your mood tracker notes that you've been happier than not.  According to Rico:

Your perceptions of yourself as you casually consider the topic of self are far different – indeed, dynamically different – from what actual data about yourself might show.

If you’ve ever followed the story of a blogger trying to conceive, you know there is a special sort of quantification inherent in those blogs. The TTC (trying to conceive) timeline.

In the land of infertility blogs, self-quantification through timelines or chronological lists are almost de rigeur. How many IUIs, how many years off birth control, how many surgeries, in some cases, sadly, how many losses, has it taken or is it taking to reach the end goal, a baby safe and healthy in one's arms. This is often charted and readily accessible as a sidebar or separate page. Just joining the party? Here’s your cheat sheet. Sometimes these histories are short and sweet. Other times they read like indecipherable texts from foreign lands, filled with acronyms, medical terminology and more detail than I would ever want my mom to stumble across.

So what does that set of data show? Does it alter our perceptions of ourselves or strengthen them? Does it validate what we already know (I've been trying a damn long time to get pregnant)? Does it give us perspective? Do we wear it like a badge (like I do my RunKeeper mileage) At the end of the day, is it any different than tracking miles or meals on the way to an ideal weight or race time?

I don’t keep a rolling timeline on my blog, but I do pull out some data points for special occasions, on my five year blogging anniversary, I posted this:

1825 days
424 posts
4 canceled cycles (2 due to donor eggs issues, 1 with eggs didn't make the thaw, and one when we realized my lining wasn't going to magically grow 4 more mm in a night)
2 fresh IVFs with donor eggs
2 FETs with donor eggs
1 pregnancy
almost 22 weeks of bliss
2 beautiful babies not here
100+ amazing people encountered, including over a dozen that have turned into real life friends.
4 offers of compassionate surrogacy
1 potential baby mama (gestational surrogate) in the works....


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