My Electronic Overlord
I really am a simple soul.
In December I was given a Fitbit for my birthday. I love it. I may, in fact, have gone a little off the deep end about it. It’s a little bit like a tamagotchi (remember those?) except about exercise: it requires attention and gives you just enough approving feedback to keep you giving it that attention. This is how our E-Overlords are going to take over: by making us want to please them so we get tiny gratifications.
The new exercise standards, as I understand them, suggest that we should all be putting in 10,000 steps a day. And on most days (particularly on work days when I commute downtown and spend all day running around a museum) this is not difficult. But my Fitbit also monitors how active I am during the day, how well I sleep, how much water I’m drinking (useful, since I am consistently under-hydrated) and what my calorie burn is. I’m not the sort of person who obsesses about any of these things except, perhaps, the steps. I’m not getting any younger, and I’d like to arrive at Old Age with some semblance of my health intact.
I let my Fitbit report to me about my sleep (about 7 hours a night, not including the awake/restless periods which the Fitbit somehow knows about). Every time I meet a goal–whether it’s the one that is programmed into the software, or one I’ve added–I get a visual confirmation. Like what? The “you should do 15+ minutes of actual exercise five times a week” pentagon gets another green bar. Circles that represent how many minutes you’ve been active all day, or how many calories you’ve burned, or how many miles you’ve clocked, turn green. And when you meet the 10,000 step goal, the Big Circle goes green and the actual Fitbit unit on your wrist has a little dance party, with multicolored lights flashing for a minute. And on those occasions when you hit the 10k goal and the active minutes goal and the calories burned goal and the miles clocked goal, the whole upper part of the screen flashes green at you and there’s a cascade of stars.
I am a simple soul, as I said. As dumb as it sounds, this pleases me inordinately. I find myself trying to walk a little longer, or move a little more on an hourly basis. My Fitbit gets me on the elliptical when nothing else will, because I live for turning that pentagon green. I know how silly this is, and yet… it works.
I choose to consider this a force for good. Whether it will be a long-term force for good, I don’t know. But for now it’s working.