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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
Fitbit CEO James Park stated in an interview last month that Fitbit users with friends take an average of 27 percent more steps than users without friends.
"There's a peer pressure and there's also a competitive aspect," he said.
The concept is simple: Connect with friends and challenge each other.
A little healthy competition is good for everyone, right?
Maybe with limitations.
In 2008, Strava emerged. The app works by tracking users' bike rides, runs and swims using GPS and then pitting them against other "Stravites" on pre-programmed segments. No need for friendships; Strava users can compete with strangers.
The competitive urge of Strava was thrilling. I found myself seeking out specific routes to beat other athletes' times, and when someone would beat my time, I made a point to ride the segment until I was champion.
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Then Strava came under fire in 2010 when a cyclist named Kim Flint was killed, possibly by trying to beat his time.
Flint's family filed a lawsuit against Strava, seeking to hold the company accountable for negligence. They argued that the app encouraged dangerous behavior, failed to ensure challenges were on safe courses and failed to warn about dangerous roads.
"The death of Kim Flint was a tragic accident and we expressed our sincere condolences," Mark Riedly, a spokesman for Strava, said in a statement.
"But we will defend the company vigorously through the legal process ahead."
The Flint v. Strava Inc. lawsuit addressed the dangers of unregulated online competition among users. Strava prevailed in court in 2013.
Writer Joe Lindsey argued on Wired, "Strava didn't invent competitive urges; it merely came up with an innovative way to recognize our human imperative to improve, to win."
In March 2012 Strava was under fire once again when a cyclist killed a pedestrian by plowing through a busy intersection, presumably in an effort to chase an online record. Then in September 2014, a similar accident took place in New York's Central Park.
A #nostrava campaign followed on Twitter in response, but that seems like a blame-shifting campaign. Shouldn't the user bear more responsibility than the app?
Strava and Fitbit are just two among many popular fitness apps, and more continually develop to keep us fit and healthy. Other apps such as Runkeeper, Nike Plus, Garmin Fit and Runtastic have similar concepts.
They all have one main goal in mind - to change your behavior.
We can track how many calories we burn and how many steps we take, but smart decisions about safety have to come from within.
There's no app for that.
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