Being Accountable in the Digital Age

http://www.flickr.com/photos/toastytreat

If you’ve been following this site for a while, then you know that it started as a little project to keep me accountable for what I was eating. As many things on the internet, though, it soon took on a life of it’s own.

However, sometimes I think back to the simple beginnings of this site and how it kept me (more or less) on track with the goals I had set out for myself. The simple act of sharing something online makes you think very hard about how your activities will be perceived by someone else. Case in point – have you ever stood in front of the fridge with the door open, snacking on things, while someone else was around? (If so, then you have a spouse or roommate of above-average tolerance for things like that).

But, if you’re like most people, you won’t behave in that sort of manner when you know people are watching. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years as a coder, it’s that the possibility that someone might look at your work that makes you super-diligent at making it as perfect as possible.

It’s easy to start your own blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other site. There are tons of tutorials that will walk you through that process, so I won’t bore you with the details here. However, I will share with you a few things that I’ve learned along the way!

Make your goals D.U.M.B.

Although most people will tell you that goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound), I encourage you to do just the opposite – make them D.U.M.B. — (Drab, Unfocused, Malleable, and Broad). Post a vague fluffy, pie-in-the-sky goal on your blog or social feed. “I’m gonna start losing weight. No idea how long it will take me, or how I will do it, but I’m starting.” Or, “I’m going to start running! I think I need to buy new shoes first.”

Does this seem counterintuitive? Yup, I bet it does. But here’s the thing. The more specific your goal, the less likely you are to achieve it. That’s because the winding path (or paths) that lead you to your goal are what will focus your efforts and bring you some level of success. If you set a specific goal, you’ll lose the potential side benefit of discovering other side paths that lead you to a goal of equal or greater value to your wellness lifestyle.

For instance, perhaps in learning to run, you find that you really, really enjoy off-trail running, and completing a freestyle 10K run through the woods — no matter how long it takes you — is more satisfying and motivating than trying to get your 5K time under 30 minutes. You need to leave yourself open to opportunities; shifting goals does not mean that you have failed.

Don’t shoot your food

Your Facebook friends DON’T want to see a picture of your goddamn meal every single time they check their feed. It’s GROSS. Yes, I did it for a while, and so have some of my other friends that have followed the recommendation of Tim Ferriss in his book “[amazon_link id=”030746363X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The 4-Hour Body[/amazon_link]” to photograph every single meal you eat. But, really, seriously, no one wants to see that. Trust me, when you look back at the food you’ve eaten, photographed in less-than-flattering light, you’ll quickly get grossed out by the pictures.

Instead, if you are hell-bent on taking pictures, here’s a few ideas of what can constitute and engaging and interesting picture without resorting to food:

  • A shot of the restaurant menu, showing what you’ve chosen to eat
  • A picture of you trying to master chopsticks in your goal to eat more slowly
  • A picture of you making the food, decked out in oven mitts and a snazzy apron (add a chef’s hat for bonus points)
  • A picture of where you’re enjoying your food, if you’re eating outside and you’re looking at some beautiful scenery

Automation is death to your posts

Fitocracy, Nike+, MapMyRun and other users of services that integrate with your social feeds — I’m looking at you. I have tried a few of these, and nothing is more tedious than “I just earned 750 points on Fitocracy by flexing my muscles in front of a mirror OMGLOL!!1!!!11!!” If you really want to drive engagement, don’t let the applications post for you. Do it yourself, and make the posts personal and engaging.

Take a shot of your GPS watch and post that instead, with a great comment about it being your best run ever. Tweet about and share a pic of the cute dog that followed you on your run. Link to a recipe that helped you lose those first 5 pounds. Do something that shares with the world your personal take on your wellness journey. People want to hear about YOU, not from a service that posts automatically. It’s worse than Farmville. Seriously.

Post the fun stuff. Not the important stuff.

Never, ever, commit to daily updates. Why? It’s the same psychology as not weighing yourself every day. To go through the mental anguish of looking at the scale’s numbers every day is the best way to burn yourself out and get de-motivated. Blogging (or tweeting, or Facebooking) is the same way. Do it too often, about the same subject, and you’ll rapidly run out of things to say.

However, don’t just wait for milestones to post, or you’ll get frustrated. Post about the fun parts of your journey. Post about the heartbreak. These are the things that people are truly interested in. Remember the old saying about “getting there is half the fun”? It’s true. The “getting there” is also infinitely more interesting to read about. It’s also more fun to write about. How many different ways can you write “Hey! I ate on-plan today and lost 1.7 lbs this week?” Jesus. No one wants to read that.

Make your mark

Whether it’s really for your own benefit, or if you manage to corral thousands of viewers, you still need to let your own personality shine through in your journalling. If readers of this blog think I’m arrogant and driven, then I’ve done a great job of letting my personality shine through! 🙂

Have a site or page that details your journey? Share it below!

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