Self-tracking and the Twitter diet plan

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Twitter can help you lose weight, at least according to a recent study from researchers at the University of South Carolina. “In the USC study, 96 overweight or obese adults were randomly assigned to either listen to two podcasts per week about nutrition and fitness or to listen to the podcasts, record physical activity, and connect with other study participants on Twitter,” according to the Huffington Post. “At the end of the six-month period, the Twitter users lost more weight — each tweet actually corresponded with half a pound lost, researchers found, suggesting that social networking can be a powerful, accessible tools for dieters.”

Sounds weird, but this sort of public self-tracking apparently works. A cover story in the Atlantic delved into the trend and its connection to B.F. Skinner. It’s a great read. Also check out a column I wrote about the so-called self-tracking movement, with people using gadgets like the Fitbit activity tracker. As I wrote then:

It is the ancient dictum, “Know thyself,” updated for the digital age. In the smart phone world, “Know thyself” means a nonstop cycle of recording information about yourself, analyzing it and even sharing these details with everyone you know, and millions you don’t know, via Facebook, Twitter and other social networking spots. Delve into the nether regions of the self-tracking movement, and you can’t help feeling like we’re at risk of turning ourselves into a nation of insanely obsessive-compulsive exhibitionists.

That’s what was running through my head recently when I learned about a recent situation in which the sexual activity of a bunch of self-trackers was inadvertently exposed through their online profiles (with wording like “active, vigorous effort” and the activity’s duration in minutes).

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