Sometimes new technology and an addictive personality don’t really mix. At least when humorist David Sedaris acquired a Fitbit Flex wristband, the end result was that he spent hours walking back roads in the English countryside, racking up tens of thousands of steps.
No, he wasn’t using the occasionally rash-inducing Fitbit Force, with its real-time step count and time display, but the earlier Force, which provides feedback only in the form of dots. Trying to run up the step count leads to aimless rambling, and aimless rambling leads to picking up trash along the roads in the rural area of England where he lives. He shared in the New Yorker his encounters with fast food containers, used condoms, and the birth of a calf, all of which he experienced thanks to the eight or nine hours he spent walking each day because of the Fitbit’s nagging.
There’s a danger to becoming too addicted to the information and instant feedback that wearable fitness trackers provide. When his Fitbit Flex broke, Sedaris reports, he was suddenly free, but also bereft. He was taking steps, but they didn’t count for anything. “Walking twenty-five miles, or even running up the stairs and back, suddenly seemed pointless, since, without the steps being counted and registered, what use were they?” he wrote. “I lasted five hours before I ordered a replacement, express delivery.” Unlike Maureen Dowd’s terrifying hallucinations when she tried a marijuana candy bar, for Sedaris the terror came when he was forced to live without the device. Gadget withdrawal was too much to bear.
New technology is fun, but take care not to become addicted or too dependent on a small wristband filled with electronic components. As wearable step counters become more popular and companies release smartwatches in the coming years, don’t lose control of your life in the interest of quantifying everything that you do.
STEPPING OUT [New Yorker]