Quantified Self: A Movement Built by GenXers, Adored by Millennials

Quantified Self

The Quantified Self movement is an example of utilizing technology to track everything from daily mood to heart rate.

Quantified What?

FitBit, Daytum, Mood Panda—you’ll be hearing a lot more about these self-monitoring devices that track your daily experiences in life, measuring everything from heart rate to number of steps taken to sleep patterns. This new biofeedback technology is part of the quantified self movement (also called self-tracking or body hacking) which uses technology to gather data on all aspects of a person’s daily life.

How Big Will It Be?

Apple is so convinced of the demand for these devices, they’ve developed  and entire suite of Apps. Their new App, Digifit,  is strapped onto your body to record your heart rate, pace, speed and cadence of your running, cycling and other athletic activity. PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that the worldwide market for mobile health care devices and communications will jump from $4.5 billion in 2013 to $23 billion in 2017.

How Generations Play a Role

What is the generational angle on this? Typical of emerging consumer movements , there are often two generations at play: one that sets the conditions, and one that adopts and consumes. Both Generation X and Millennials play a role here.

Generation X (born between 1961-1981) was the first generation to embrace measurement as it relates to performance. Choice, behavior incentive, and market incentives defines this generation contribution to the business world. While the Boomers were off accomplishing their ‘mission’ (perhaps some ill-defined utopian state) GenXers were quietly measuring impact of activity on performance. GenX Google founders Sergy Brin and Larry Page turned the advertising world upside down by introducing a pay-for-performance model of advertising. Now GenX has found a way to bring measurement and performance to personal human behavior. Most leaders in the Quantified Self movement, first defined by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly in a 2007 Wired Magazine article, are born in the 1970’s, while the consumers and enthusiasts are born in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Millennials say… Monitor Me, Please

While early wave GenXers and Boomers may be wary of this self-monitoring due to privacy concerns and technology adoption reluctance, Millennials can’t wait to get their hands on this stuff.

Clearly technology adoption plays a role in Millennials’ acceptance of this movement, but it is the culture of Millennials that assure body-hacking is here to stay. As I pointed out in previous blogs, Millennials are much more comfortable sharing their personal information over web, so sharing even intimate details on sleep patterns is not a concern. Furthermore, as Neil Howe points out, Millennials are an achieving generation. They’ve grown up in an environment where test scores matter and there are measured goals (achieving GPA and SAT scores to get into college, etc. ). At the heart of self-monitoring devices is the ability to measure so you can improve. Millennials will accept this challenge with gusto.

Finally, Millennials have grown up in a heavily monitored environment, so there is something comforting about the idea of monitoring their well being. This was the first generation whose parents had the monitor listening devices in their room, so they could hear every peep from the crib. Remember—Millennials trust technology. Technology is their friend.  I can easily see a 24-year old posting her heart rate results on Facebook to the adoring comments from friends and parents “Way to go!” and “Good job!” This positive feedback– the essential motivator for Millennials– encourages better results, of course. And with their close relationship with parents, it is easy to see how texting their results to their parents will be the norm.

So, how can companies take advantage of this new self-monitoring movement, and what implications can this have to your healthcare? Stay tuned for my next blog post for some ideas…

-Warren Wright


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