Why the Google Maps Calorie Count Feature Wasn't Okay
The test feature has since been removed from the app.
If you keep up with what's going on in health technology, it can feel like something new and innovative gets released almost weekly. From DNA testing that helps you optimize your workouts to a fitness watch that syncs directly with your cardio machine of choice, things are getting *pretty* interesting in the world of health gizmos, gadgets, and apps-and anything that makes staying fit easier is super exciting in our book! But that doesn't mean that there's no such thing as getting too much or unwanted information about your health and fitness, especially when it comes to more sensitive things like weight and calorie counts. (And BTW, it is possible to achieve your weight-loss goals without grading yourself.)
As you probably know, major apps like Facebook and Twitter often release "test" features before making them available to the public. This week, Google Maps released one of its own that showed users how many calories they'd burn if they opted to walk to their destination rather than driving or taking public transit.
While we're all for walking more in the name of health-after all just hitting those 10,000 steps can have a huge impact-there was one problem. The feature put the calories in context of how many (mini, pink) cupcakes you'd "earn" by walking the distance to your destination. As one Twitter user said, "WTF?"
Needless to say, the feature didn't exactly go over well. We're all for using a fitness tracker if you want to, or recording how many calories you burned during a workout to help you stay on track to meet your goals if that works for you. The problem here? You couldn't turn the feature off, which means that people who didn't want to see the calorie count were faced with it anyway. Another Twitter user wrote, "If I want calorie counting, I'll ask for it!"
Another user was able to make light of the situation while also pointing out how silly the feature really is. "Good news everyone. Google Maps tells me I'll lose 47,000 calories by walking directly into the ocean," she wrote. And BTW, the app's suggestion to refrain from eating the 429 cupcakes she'd "earn" on this walk all at once was pretty eye-roll-inducing.
So why is this such a problem? While a focus on weight-related numbers and calorie counting is NBD for some people, it can be majorly triggering for anyone who has struggled with disordered eating. That's probably why Google Maps has since removed the feature, according to a statement they gave Buzzfeed. Not to mention that there are legit health and diet benefits to ~not~ counting calories.
Don't get us wrong-it's great to encourage people to be more active when you have a massive platform (like an app as widely used as Google Maps!), but giving consumers the choice about whether or not they want to access potentially triggering information is key. Kudos to Google for acknowledging user feedback so quickly, and fingers crossed it's been a learning experience for all.