wellness apps

August 23, 2021
By Bytewrthy
In Eco-Wellness

Extreme Pressures of Wellness in the Digital Age

App Overload

The wellness industry has become a dominating force in our stressed-out world. As of 2018, beauty and personal care, weight loss and nutrition, and fitness and mind-body made up over half the $4.5 trillion market. We’re constantly looking for ways to “better” ourselves and companies are all too happy to sell us the one thing which will get us there. Endless trends, apps, and lofty promises make it increasingly difficult to discern what practices will actually benefit our lives and what will derail it.

Trendy Wellness Traps

Often enough, a new wellness trend appears claiming to be the next answer to all of our prayers. Many times their promises fall flat, such as vaginal steaming, yogi eggs, and weight loss teas – which have been widely discredited as scams.

This industry is unfortunately steeped in fatphobia, misogyny, and racism. Products like skin-whitening creams, are overt examples of this, while other trends fly under the radar applying extreme pressure nonetheless. For example, certain dietary supplements and vitamins may work for some, but the narrative that all must take them in order to remain healthy is a scam of its own. Brands use fear mongering tactics to get customers to buy items they believe will cure them of “imperfections” they otherwise might not be bothered by. Still, other wellness trends appear largely harmless while only being accessible to the privileged. Those with discretionary income and time can participate in activities like goat yoga, which is more like a fun petting zoo than true yoga. Social media and pop culture push these trends hard that they can make anyone feel pressured to splurge on them.

The internet has made it almost impossible to hide from the trappings of the wellness industry as it’s not only brought us perfectly edited Instagram photos but also virtual reality beauty apps that can alter one’s face in a matter of seconds. Who wouldn’t want to give a product that promises “perfection” a whirl before shelling out a small fortune? Such technology not only drains our bank accounts but hurts our self-esteem as well. Those who are already vulnerable can be hit hard by the unrealistic images these apps convey. A 2018 report published in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, the American medical journal, found that filtered images could lead to body dysmorphic disorder, “a serious mental health condition where a person will obsess about perceived flaws in their appearance,” Refinery29 explains. Each new filter brainwashes users into believing that they must look a certain way in order to consider themselves beautiful.

Competitive Data Collection

Technology and social media have played a large part in fostering a culture of insecurity, specifically when it comes to body image. These elements have bolstered the already unhealthy comparison patterns within the inextricably linked beauty and fitness industries. In particular, the rise of tracking apps have taken competition within the fitness world to a whole new level. Apps, internet programs, and fitness trends which make their rounds on social media disguise themselves as helpful tools when in reality they’re just another way for us to feel as though we don’t measure up.

Time cited several reports which connect data collection and mental health issues in their 2019 piece “Is Our Obsession With Health Data Making Us Crazy?” One CNN study of female Fitbit users found that “59% felt as if their routines were controlled by their device, while 30% said their Fitbit made them feel guilty.” Additionally, a 2015 study at Duke University in North Carolina found that enjoyment in activities can be greatly reduced, or even cause people to opt out altogether if measurements aren’t tracked. “Enjoyable activities can become almost like a job, by focusing on the outcomes of things that used to be fun,” explained one professor behind the study. Going for a long bike ride can cease to be a pleasure in itself, instead fueled by an addiction to boasting about achievements online. Fitness data collection has become less about helpful information and more about seeking validation.

Problematic Solutions

It’s become clear that a large part of the wellness industry is less concerned with a healthy lifestyle and more about a race to be “the best.” When we’re not comparing our daily steps or obsessing over someone else’s social media post, we’re on the hunt for the next thing which will “streamline” our lives. Hacks, shortcuts, and fancy apps are all the rage these days. Those fatigued by the wellness industry look for solutions to their app addictions with, you guessed it, more apps.

This ironic cycle can be found in almost all aspects of our lives. From wellness to work, our addiction to metrics is keeping us from truly performing well. For example, The Muse found that many people actually waste more time organizing and planning for productivity than getting the work done. “The secret to getting things done in an efficient manner, though, is pretty simple: Just get started,” writer Abby Wolfe spells out in another article on the site. The lure of shiny apps and trendy tricks is irresistible but no tool can actually do the work for you. These productivity “hacks” more often than not lead to procrastination instead.

Society’s obsession with being best is costing us money, time, and frankly, our sanity. Self-esteem and mental health are actually being hindered in the wellness industry’s current iteration. Instead of attempting to blindly follow the pack we must look at each trend with a critical eye, deciding for ourselves if the product, activity, or lifestyle change makes sense for us individually. We are not all the same and wellness journeys needn’t be either.

Share this post