Who rules your life: you or your smartwatch?

A couple of weeks ago I resurrected my FitBit Alta HR, which had for two years been consigned to a pocket of my laptop bag with a bunch of other gadgets I’d forgotten I had (iPod shuffle, anyone?).

I ordered a nice black metal strap to replace the ancient sweat-eroded pink rubber one and set about wearing it so it could convert my every move into exciting graphs and charts.

For the last 2 weeks I’ve tracked every calorie I’ve eaten, every step I’ve taken, and every heart beat I’ve…beaten. I’ve also tracked my weight and body fat percentage and have set some specific goals that determine what my daily calorie deficit should be to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time.

Every hour my FitBit buzzes and tells me to get off my lazy arse to take 250 steps, which is useful while I’m working at home as I often get carried away with writing for too long. When this happens I generally get up and have a mad dance to some loud music.

As good as it is to feel in control of my energy consumption and expenditure, there is something a little Black Mirroresque about wearables. They just fit so seamlessly and discreetly into our lives, quickly becoming so much a part of us that we don’t even like taking them off to charge, in case we miss some vital data like what our heart rate does when we have a sneezing fit.

Smartwatches influence our behaviours so drastically. Mostly in good ways: we want to see that celebratory eruption of fireworks telling us we’ve reached 10k steps, so we take the slightly longer route to where we need to be, or add in extra activity where we otherwise wouldn’t have. We don’t give into the temptation to eat that extra snack because we don’t want our calorie graph to slip into the red. Our smartwatches hold us accountable. We want to maintain perfect scores on all fronts, so we modify our real-life behaviours to passify our wearables.

The game-like interface of our smartwatch apps switches on our competitive drive. We get that rush of dopamine from the sneaky rewards built into the system – the encouraging messages that pop up on screen, the charts showing us our progress.

It’s addictive. I wonder if anyone has had any negative experiences with their smartwatch? Has anyone taken it too far; become too obsessive? Let me know in the comments 😊

So far my experience has been positive. I’ve been walking a lot more and have been motivated to do harder workouts so I can increase my fitness score. Quantifying my progress is satisfying: it reassures me that my body really is responding to the changes I’m making, which encourages me to keep going.

If anything I wish I could track more of my health stats. If one day Bill Gates wants to inject nanobots in my bloodstream, I’m all for it. Imagine never having to go to the GP again! If you have an ailment you can just check your health app and run a diagnostics test, like you would with a car, to determine what’s wrong.

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