are we outsourcing our self-awareness?
(alternate title: "is fitbit the mark of the beast?")
Yay! for stuff that encourages and inspires us to get up and move our bodies, and even humble us with the awareness how much ofour recommended daily allowance of exercise we're really not getting.
However... (you figured there was a 'however', right?...)
However - and this is really only an ongoing curiosity, not (entirely) dissin' the gadgets - I wonder what the tax is, what the loss is of giving over more and more of our direct connection to our bodies to technology.
Take the current trendy accoutrement, the FitBit.
According to the website, it "tracks your activity, exercise, food, weight, and sleep..."; it slices, it dices, it juliennes, whatever that means... (okay, I threw that last reference in for SNL fans)
Anyway. I'm not immune to the fascination with stats. When I made the effort to walk more, of course, I wanted to know how far I got in how much time. And I recently signed up on a website that's like FitBit for writers... like Julia Cameron's 'morning pages", only with stats! And graphics! And comical badges for milestones passed! (I'm now a Flamingo, if you've been following along.)
It was a recent conversation with a client, as well as an ad I saw for this little gadget, that got me wondering, to what extent is all this information helpful? And to what extent is it overriding our ability to tune into our bodies' needs and rhythms and the truth about what is right for us?
For a while, I resisted using a GPS when driving somewhere unfamiliar, as I kinda liked the challenge of reading a map, and noticing landmarks. Yeah, most trips would involve at least one u-turn, but I generally knew the route after that.... largely because I was taking in the surroundings rather than following a line on a little screen with a nice lady telling me to turn in 100 yards.
(And she's not always right, you know. Case in point, a recent wooden covered-bridge that was taken out by a tractor-trailer because the driver was just 'following the GPS'.)
Yes, common sense should have prevailed there, and that is exactly the point I'm making.
In the aforementioned conversation, my client, a mom of two young children who are still navigating the whole sleeping-through-the-night thing, was sharing how her FitBit tracked her sleep, or lack thereof. She mentioned how one morning, even though she woke refreshed, her device informed her that no, she really didn't sleep well. Her movement patterns and REM's and what-all clearly indicated she should not be feeling refreshed.
So, I asked, how is having that bit of info helpful?
She said, well, I guess to make my husband feel guilty.
Ah. So, as some dads are prone to do.. ie, sleep through crying babies and air raids, all the while snoring to high heaven ... having the validation of numbers and stats to prove that their poor partners are lying there awake could possibly earn some 'aw honey's' and maybe a foot rub.
But beyond that...? (This is an honest question for FitBit owners. Does knowing how much or how little you slept actually help you sleep better, or just make you more anxious about the whole thing?)
I'll admit it. I worry about how much power we're giving over to our technology to answer, 'how then shall we live'? I worry that we're not willing to get lost, make mistakes, bump into things, and that we'll pay even less attention to our body's signals when they're tired, hungry, stressed or just needing to move.
I think it's important to keep in mind, too, these measurements for our fitness, just like with the calorie obsession, are also external standards that are subject to change. (Not to mention that there are compensatory patterns in exercising and walking, for example, that actually expend less of your body's energy, diminishing the results you think you're getting, and possibly creating injury, no matter how many reps or steps you walk - patterns that cannot be measured by a gadget. But that's a topic for another time.)
So, besides the comment I just made, maybe your response is, yeah, so what?
Well, my answers could range from knowing the simple joys of doing things for their own sakes, being alive and aware in the sensory experience of moving and tasting and breathing and being curious about how it feels, to describing a scenario that would resemble a science fiction novel.
There are some who would say that we are in real danger of being taken over by artificial intelligence. That our humanness is being usurped technology. We may scoff at that, and yet the reaching for the gadgets and the apps and the googles is practically a knee jerk reaction for more and more of our population. While I can't quantify this, I suspect there's a huge loss being incurred on a micro (and then eventually macro level ) when we use less and less of our motor skills in favor of stuff that allows us to interact with the physical environment only through buttons and touch screens.
On a more practical level, it's my belief that we are becoming far too dependent on an infrastructure that's more fallible and vulnerable than we'd like to believe. And more of these 'tools' are presenting themselves as necessities and 'gotta haves' ... many of which are burdening our personal budgets, and adding hugely to the waste stream.
I don't think there's any way of slowing that train down. But on a personal level, if you are reading this because you are seeking health and happiness and joy and connection and sanity and the Real, I encourage you to balance the 'information' you're plugging into with your own God-given inner knowing... about what nature - both within and without you - is saying.
Make it a point to stay in touch (literally!) with how you feel. Those connections only remain if you use them. Regularly.
Hone your physical senses, so you can rely on them in the absence of your smartphone. Make it a practice to see how you can fare in situations without reaching for the device - for directions, for information… keep your memory working, exercise your brain, and your body/mind connection. Start a practice of taking notes of your own proprioceptive* stats, before you gauge the measurements, ie… write down how you feel, what you notice on a sensory level in your body. Feel for your own heart rate. Look at the patterns in clouds and wind direction and smells and animal behavior to see if you can predict the weather. Try to guess how far you've walked before looking it up. Or what the time is. Or what moon phase we're in.
Please. Let's not lose that connection.
(PS: As I was curious what Katy Bowman may have said, if she said anything, about the FitBit, yes, I googled! and found this article ... not written by her, but about her, from an avid FitBit wearer. Bonus, it concludes with a perfect Einstein quote...)