Datasexuals, the new generation of exhibitionists

These hyperconnected urban narcissists track every detail of their lives on social networking sites.

By broadcasting his personal data online, Kevin believes he’s discovered the holy grail of sexual attractiveness. The 22 year-old student spends all his free time frenetically posting the quantifiable details of every facet of his existence. Sharing everything there is to know about himself in this way is not only a huge ego trip, but he’s also convinced it’s sexy.

“He hardly ever leaves his room now. I just don’t understand it. He tells people he hardly knows everything about himself,” his mother worries. What she doesn’t realize is that he belongs to a new social tribe. He’s a Datasexual. A label which takes him out of the realm of the mere internet addict and, conversely, gives him a legitimate identity as part of a growing social trend.

Metrosexuals are totally preoccupied by their clothes, their hair or their perfume. And now their digital equivalent has been born. Dominic Basulto has christened them Datasexuals, and defined them: “They are relentlessly digital, they obsessively record everything about their personal lives, and they think that data is sexy. In fact, the bigger the data, the sexier it becomes,” explains the American consultant at the firm Bond Influence. His article, “Meet the Urban Datasexual,” has been causing a stir ever since it first appeared earlier this year.

Far cooler than the average computer geek, Datasexuals have already been integrated into current marketing-speak and entered the Urban Dictionary. Their arrival is hardly surprising. On the internet, sharing personal data with friends or strangers satisfies the egos of “digital narcissists” who like nothing better to flaunt themselves before the net’s virtual looking glass. Basulto attributes the origins of the Datasexual to infographics. These data visualizations made “the obsessive recording of everyday activities seem cool.”

From tracking body weight to recording the number of sexual encounters in a given day, noting the amount of food consumed or the vital statistics of any and every part of the body, even journey times and how many people they meet, Datasexuals log and share everything. Their obsession with data knows no bounds.

In the digital world it seems that the Socratic dictum “know thyself” translates to “quantify thyself.” The “Quantified Self” is all-important: “in the next ten years, the job of statistician will be the sexiest one going,” says the Chief Economist with Google, Hal Varion, with irony.

Nike, with its bracelet which allows the wearer to record their exercise activity and then share that data with their friends via iPhone, is already investing in this frenetic trend for personal data logging. This permanent display of self, with its accompanying ego boost, is becoming an increasingly widespread phenomenon. Does this mean then that people’s unknown side, the side that is so attractive, so sexy, will eventually cease to exist? In the future, if Basulto is to be believed, we will all turn into Kevin: “the whole Datasexual craze is starting to tip into the mainstream.”

This bulimic logging of personal data has a bright future. Our digital ego will get over its current obsession with measurable data and even now is waiting impatiently for the tool which will allow it record every element of daily life in an artificial memory. Gordon Bell, a Microsoft researcher, is already working to make this “dream” a reality. It will be called “Total Recall,” and it will make it possible to record your whole life in digital form. It’s known as “lifelogging.”

Which begs the question: will this quest for digital immortality give rise in its turn to a whole new social tribe – “the Immortals”?

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