Confessions of an Obsessive Stats-Checker

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My name is Benya, and I’m an obsessive stats-checker.

Whenever I go on a run, I always bring along my phone or GPS watch to record the exercise. The first thing that I do when I get home — before I’ve even stretched or showered — is open up my laptop, log onto Strava, and check every available statistic and measurement of the run I’ve just completed.

The obsession extends to my writing too. On Medium, the moment I’ve uploaded an article, I find myself immediately starting to refresh the stats page. Throughout the entire day, I can’t resist checking in, hoping to see that my latest post got a few new views.

Even my reading habit isn’t safe. For over six years, I’ve kept a log of every single book that I’ve read. I’ve spent hours looking through the list, seeing breakdowns of pages read per month, author demographics, and all the other stats that Goodreads and LibraryThing provide.

The Benefits of Stats

I’d like to believe my obsession at least began with good intentions. I tend to think in a goal-oriented way, and tracking my habits can help with that.

Examining my runs does give me a bit of good information when I’m planning future runs. I can see how much I was exerting myself, how my times are changing, and how my distances are improving. All of this information is useful when I’m planning future runs and trying to become a stronger runner.

Similarly, with writing, taking a look at the stats page now and then can give me valuable feedback about which of my posts connect with audiences and which don’t. It helps me decide on future topics and see how different writing styles are received.

Even tracking books has provided a small benefit. It helps remind me of which authors I enjoy, and helps me notice when I’ve gone a long time without reading much.

There are definite real-world benefits that I get from examining these kinds of statistics, at least every once in a while.

The Downside of Stats

My problem is that I take all these things too far, checking the stats way more often than I could ever really need. For most of the things that I keep track of in life, even checking the statistics once or twice a week would be more than enough to give me all the information that I need.

I’m not really checking my stats so often because it helps me with my goals. I think the real force driving me is simply chasing the excitement when my numbers go up, no matter how small the increment.

Seeing a slightly faster run, or a few new views on Medium, is enough to give me a small hit of dopamine, similar to the experience many Facebook and Instagram users report. I end up getting hooked on that feeling and finding it hard to resist refreshing the page to see it again.

Unfortunately, the more I check stats like these, the more I find them difficult to resist.

As far as addictions go, it’s relatively benign. All the same, it’s still a habit that I’d like to break. My goal over the next few weeks will be to set limits for myself, checking in on stats like this only every few days, and only when I have a specific reason to. Hopefully, I can wean myself off from these minor thrills.

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

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