Handy companion: But I feel like it’s watching me all the time. Photo: iStockBlame it on the boredom of Heathrow airport. I had just disembarked from a long-haul flight and I was in what Oprah might call “a vulnerable place” – sleep-deprived and guilt-ridden over all those delicious white dinner rolls I had consumed on the way over. Reader, I had not spared the butter. Neither had the complimentary wine cart escaped my attentions. And there seemed to be no way to amuse myself for five hours without spending money.
Whatever the psychological cocktail that led me there, I decided it would be a good idea to buy one of those fitness tracker wrist-band things so trendy they have been personally endorsed by Rupert Murdoch.
And since then, life hasn’t been the same.
These wristbands are the latest technological step in the “self-quantifying movement”, the contemporary craze for accumulating and analysing data on yourself – from daily calorie counts, to steps walked and energy burned, to your mood and sleep patterns.
Mine was black and slim, and fit snugly around my right wrist. I quickly began wearing my handbags on my left side to accommodate the hand-swinging action it needed to pick up my activity. This was the first in many ways in which the wristband began to control my life.
The gadget was paired with an app on my smartphone, which could magically tell how many steps I had taken that day, how many hours I had slept at night and whether I had taken vigorous exercise. It wanted me to take 10,000 steps a day and I quickly became its slave, walking unnecessarily and even jiggling more in an attempt to please it.
The app could also be paired with a calorie counter that told my master how much I had consumed in a day. The omniscient creature would then calculate whether I had arrived at an energy deficit. If I had, my wristband would communicate warm congratulations. Sometimes it even vibrated in approval, and I would feel a surge of disproportionate pride which was actually a strong signal that the relationship had become unhealthy.
Soon, the fitness tracker went from fun gadget to panopticon. I began to believe it saw everything, and the things it didn’t see – for example, if I accidentally left it at home while off for a run – seemed pointless if it couldn’t record them.
As with all technology, my black manacle-master is fast becoming out-dated. I find myself eyeing others on the market that can measure my heart rate, or tell me exactly how many hours I have left to live on earth.
But the truth is I am too frightened to upgrade. It will know.