I’ve spent the last year fully quantified. Every step I’ve taken, every run endured, every pound gained and lost, every calorie consumed has been tracked and logged and graphed.
I use both a Fitbit and a Nike+ FuelBand to track physical activity, stacked together on my right wrist.
This does not look normal.
“Are you wearing two Fitbits?”
I rotated a number of responses when asked, some of them more true than others.
“I’m testing them for work” was a common one. (And now kind of true?)
“It’s for science.”
“I’m wearing this one for a friend so they can get credit for the run I’m about to take, too.”
But here’s the truth: Once I started with either tracker I couldn’t stop. I’m trapped. The graphs, the goals, the virtual rewards, the buzzes on my wrist when I hit my goal all became addicting.
How else would I know if I had a good enough day of activity were it not presented back to me in a bright green bar graph? (How in the world do other people know if they’re doing okay?) And how could I possibly throw away a year’s worth of data by taking one of them off? I won’t do it.
I’m stuck. Shackled by these blue and black bands of rubbery plastic on my wrist.
These fitness bands instantly changed my behavior. (This will not be a revelation to you, but it was to me, dear reader.) I drove fewer places, choosing to walk or run instead. The best days were days I could string together lots of steps for no good reason.
There was an immediate physical impact, too. I ended up losing the nearly 40 extra pounds I had carried with me since college.
There were dark days, though. The worst days were spent frozen in fear after getting a low battery warning. On days when I was hours away from being reunited with the Fitbit’s charger, I’d worry that every step taken would be the last one logged.
Important thing I learned here: How does one spend the hour that it takes to charge your Fitbit? You spend it on the couch, trying not to move, lest you waste any untracked steps.
Another low from my year: The five-mile run I took without wearing either fitness tracker. I had taken them off for a shower and forgot to put them back on.
If a run isn’t tracked, did it really happen? (The answer is no.)
My plaintive Facebook post that day asking for a friend, any friend, to take my trackers on a five-mile run for me went unanswered.
The motivations here aren’t just rooted in silly digital stimuli and mental manipulation, though.
There is a new physical language being developed here — a language of taps and buzzes.
At the center of that new language is our wrist.
It’s one of the most motivating factors of the Fitbit band. When you hit your 10,000-step goal for the day, it buzzes with glorious affirmation. That’s no small thing.
On my left wrist I wear a Pebble Steel, a smartwatch that also delivers vibrations when I get a push notification on my phone.
The Pebble watch, in tandem with the phone in my pocket and the wearables on my other wrist, have allowed me to become part machine. Digital information now courses through me, delivered in deliberate and learned sets of vibrations.
I now know, for example, that if the phone in my pocket buzzes with two quick vibrations, and the Pebble on my wrist follows with another quick buzz, I just received a text message. If the phone in my pocket delivers one quick buzz, but my Pebble doesn’t follow with its own, I just received a work e-mail.
Information overload? Maybe.
But this also helps develop a new level of multitasking. These vibrations pass through me while I do other things, and I don’t have to take the time to acknowledge them if I don’t want to.
If anything, I spend less time with my head in my phone, now that I can distill notifications by just feeling the small vibrations.
So, yes. I’m trapped in a new digital life of bar graphs and wrist taps and late-night walks for no reason other than to hit my goal and to maybe, finally, beat my friend Dan in steps.
But I think I’m fine here — these trackers wrapping me in comfort with a buzz on my wrist.
Maybe that’s my new answer to why I wear two.