WRAP GE­NIUS

Will your new techno BFF tell you more than you care to know about your­self ?

Elle (Canada) - - Body - BY TERRI WHITE

would you in­vite a stranger into bed with you? One who tracked ev­ery toss and turn, ev­ery mo­ment spent awake and pretty much ev­ery­thing else in your life? Thought not. But I have.

For the past month, I have been wear­ing the UP By Jaw­bone, a slim black band that, should I lose it, would tell any­one who cared that I: had a bad day last Tues­day and downed five glasses of red wine; didn’t get a sin­gle wink of sleep last Wed­nes­day be­cause of a loom­ing work dead­line; and suf­fer from an ex­treme and as yet unchecked ob­ses­sion with Mal­te­sers. In fact, the UP By Jaw­bone knows more about me than my friends, my col­leagues or my mother. It knows more about me than me—track­ing ev­ery step I take, ev­ery morsel I put into my mouth and ev­ery mood swing. I wear it 24-7, and it uses this inside knowl­edge to en­cour­age, ca­jole and heckle me into be­ing a fit­ter, bet­ter-rested— hell, just over­all bet­ter—ver­sion of my­self.

A de­mon hy­brid of Big Brother and a per­sonal trainer, it has a sen­sor that logs my ev­ery move­ment. Th­ese find­ings are then down­loaded via a jack that plugs di­rectly into my phone. (I type in my food, booze and mood di­ary man­u­ally.) It can also gossip with other apps and gad­gets, in­clud­ing, ter­ri­fy­ingly, a Wi-Fi-en­abled bath­room scale. That’s right—I might be able to lie about scoff­ing half a packet of cook­ies, but my hips can’t (with apolo­gies to Shakira).

This un­ob­tru­sive band marks me out as part of a new tribe—a body hacker, gath­er­ing data on my­self ev­ery sec­ond of ev­ery day and an­a­lyz­ing it each night. Like Madonna’s frayed red Kab­balah string was in the noughties, my much sub­tler, al­beit more ex­pen­sive (the h

lat­est ver­sion, UP24 By Jaw­bone, com­mands $159.95), black band is 2014’s hottest ac­ces­sory to flash. There are ri­val tribes: Many praise the Fit­bit, which can also clip onto your belt and pumps out slo­gans rang­ing from the mo­ti­va­tional “You go girl” to the down­right weird “Hug me.” What both have in common is that they give an un­par­al­leled aware­ness of what is hap­pen­ing in your own body. What’s not yet clear is whether this con­stant self­anal­y­sis is a brave new world—or the dystopian end of it.

Of course, my Jaw­bone isn’t that clever—I have to feed it my facts be­fore it can start mak­ing charts and graphs. I’m 33 years old, five feet one inch tall. I live in Man­hat­tan. Ah, yes, then there’s my weight. Be­cause that’s why we re­ally buy th­ese things, isn’t it?

For the first few days of us­ing the Jaw­bone, my home­page stats (which I check con­stantly on my iPhone) make the cause and ef­fect of my life­style stark: I get stressed, I eat; I drink, I feel tired; I can’t sleep, I get stressed and even grumpier. The Jaw­bone does slowly re­form my bad habits, of which there are many—I now spot the can­dies and piles of cheese be­fore I ab­sent-mind­edly shove them in my mouth. It also alerts me to the fact that I av­er­age five hours of sleep a night—and be­cause it tracks whether it’s light or deep sleep, I know it’s not the restora­tive kind I re­ally need.

I find my­self mak­ing de­ci­sions—walk­ing the ex­tra three blocks in­stead of hail­ing a cab, turn­ing down dessert—based on whether the Jaw­bone will ap­prove. (It rarely does, rudely send­ing the mean “Idle Alert” if I sit down for too long. Chill out! I’m work­ing!) It’s akin to pla­cat­ing a nag­ging mother who does, an­noy­ingly, al­ways know best. So I start do­ing what I used to with my ac­tual mother—I lie. Just lit­tle white ones. A few less chips logged here, a smi­ley, happy mood re­ported there (when I’ve ac­tu­ally been in the sort of rage that would have Naomi Camp­bell cow­er­ing be­hind the sofa). Which all slightly de­feats the point.

This ten­dency to fib can be cir­cum­nav­i­gated by an app called Emo­tion Sense. Cre­ated by re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge in the U.K., it doesn’t rely solely on self-re­port­ing—which, be­cause we’re all hu­man, is flawed. (It’s of­ten not un­til I’m mid-rant, or have slammed a door for the third time, that I re­al­ize quite what a thun­der­ous mood I’m in.) Emo­tion Sense tracks your use of other apps, mes­sag­ing and your phone’s GPS, glean­ing in­for­ma­tion from th­ese, as well as ask­ing for re­ports on how you feel. It knows if I’ve been call­ing or tweet­ing friends, walked home in the sun­shine or—in­cred­i­bly— been in a noisy room and uses this in­for­ma­tion to record what drives emo­tional highs and lows. Sur­pris­ingly—as I think of my­self as a party girl—I find out I’m hap­pi­est on my own or just after I’ve been on the move.

The huge ap­peal of this tech­nol­ogy is that it of­fers a way to wres­tle back con­trol. By reg­u­larly check­ing in, it keeps us on the right path when we’re in dan­ger of ca­reer­ing off it. I can’t af­ford a ther­a­pist, per­sonal trainer or nu­tri­tion­ist, but I can down­load an app or strap a gad­get around my wrist that does a re­mark­ably sim­i­lar job.

But there is a darker side—when it’s an en­abler for the body-ob­sessed. Th­ese gad­gets are dis­creet: You don’t have to stand hunched in a su­per­mar­ket aisle to cal­cu­late calo­ries; you can scan the bar code into your phone and the app will do that for you. One friend, al­ready very close to a size 2, says she gets a lit­tle thrill when her calo­riecount­ing app ad­mon­ishes her for be­ing dan­ger­ously be­low her rec­om­mended in­take. And she tries to go a lit­tle lower ev­ery day.

Po­ten­tially even worse is that this tech­nol­ogy al­lows us to con­nect with fel­low life hack­ers. Thanks to so­cial me­dia, we are com­fort­able shar­ing ev­ery­thing with ev­ery­one—from breakups to what we ate for din­ner—so di­rectly dis­sem­i­nat­ing the ups and downs of diet strug­gles and fit­ness reg­i­mens is the log­i­cal next step. Our on­line net­work can be up­dated after ev­ery meal, sleep and fit­ness class. This is meant to foster support—but, used badly, pub­licly puts us in the stocks for hav­ing a sand­wich. It would be all too easy to slip into un­healthy eat­ing pat­terns.

Per­son­ally, my logged life makes it ap­par­ent that I get a kick out of the op­ti­mism and ex­cite­ment of down­load­ing the apps and us­ing the bands. I imag­ine the fit­ter, more svelte, bet­ter-rested me. I like the bright-eyed ver­sion of my­self who sets her alarm for a 7 a.m. run be­fore work and doesn’t eat cake for break­fast. But for the same rea­son I use an old-school Ree­bok step to reach the high shelf in my kitchen, my en­thu­si­asm swiftly wanes. The prom­ise of who this tech­nol­ogy could turn me into is ap­peal­ing, but, ul­ti­mately, it doesn’t en­tirely de­liver.

While all this self-knowl­edge may be fas­ci­nat­ing—to me, at least—the hard­est thing is to work out what to do with the in­for­ma­tion. I al­ready knew I needed more and bet­ter sleep—the Jaw­bone merely con­firmed it. I don’t need a gad­get to tell me that I have stuffed my­self with carbs and cheese and done lit­tle more ex­er­cise than walk up the stairs to my fifth-floor apart­ment—my trousers will get snug. And then rip when I sit down. But isn’t con­tin­u­ous self­anal­y­sis a bit dull? I’ve al­ways found con­stant self-cri­tique un­nec­es­sary: I am (fairly) suc­cess­ful, not (re­ally) over­weight and (gen­er­ally) happy. After a few weeks of use, the Jaw­bone makes me feel like an app-wield­ing Woody Allen—navel-gaz­ingly self-ob­sessed and prone to telling ev­ery­one about it. Maybe, for me at least, in the long term, all this knowl­edge might not re­ally con­vert to power. n

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