JEN­NIFER O’CON­NELL

My Ap­ple watch and me: The no­ti­fi­ca­tions I get these days are verg­ing on the pas­sive ag­gres­sive

The Irish Times Magazine - - INSIDE -

It was my col­league Sa­muel who con­vinced me I needed a fit­ness tracker. We were desk neigh­bours at a job I had a few years ago in Sil­i­con Val­ley and, though he wasn’t the first per­son I knew with a Fit­bit, he was the first per­son I knew who was in a full- on re­la­tion­ship with one. He was also very thin. This was a rel­a­tively re­cent de­vel­op­ment which, in hind­sight, might have had more to do with the bag of cos let­tuce he had taken to bring­ing in for his lunch ev­ery day, rather than his early adop­tion of fit­ness track­ing tech­nol­ogy.

I’d watch him, the sound of his crunch­ing drilling in­side my brain, as he tapped at the rub­ber band on his wrist and, through fork­fuls of let­tuce, sighed hap­pily. Ten thou­sand steps to­day, he’d say. Or: 12,000. Even­tu­ally: 40,000.

When he had a meet­ing, he’d set off 15 min­utes early and half- walk, half- jog around the cam­pus, craftily notch­ing up an ex­tra 3,000 steps. As I stood jab­bing at the but­ton on the lift, I be­gan to won­der whether I was miss­ing some­thing.

I’m com­pet­i­tive about my toys, so a first gen­er­a­tion Fit­bit wasn’t go­ing to cut it. I got an Ap­ple watch for Christ­mas that year, and started count­ing my steps.

Ten thou­sand steps, it turns out af­ter some re­search, is both an en­tirely ar­bi­trary goal cho­sen by some mar­ket­ing ge­nius in Fit­bit, and quite a lot of mov­ing around.

Af­ter the writer David Sedaris got his Fit­bit, he wrote a kind of love let­ter to it in the New Yorker, in which he cal­cu­lated that 10,000 steps was “a lit­tle more than four miles for some­one my size – five feet five inches. It sounds like a lot, but you can cover that dis­tance in the course of an av­er­age day without even try­ing, es­pe­cially if you have stairs in your house.” Soon Sedaris was do­ing 15,000. Then 25,000. Then 30,000. Then 65,000. This was very en­cour­ag­ing. I, too, am five feet five inches and I, too, have stairs.

De­spite hav­ing all those ad­van­tages on my side, I never scaled even the lower plains of Sedaris’s achieve­ments. Dou­bly per­plex­ingly, I never even scaled Sa­muel’s. I barely ever made it to 10,000 steps. I was av­er­ag­ing about 30,000 steps a week. Sedaris would have that done by break­fast.

But for a year or so, dur­ing what I now see as our hon­ey­moon pe­riod, I kept try­ing. Things were good. What­ever my Ap­ple watch wanted me to do, I’d do un­com­plain­ingly, even though the red flags were there from the be­gin­ning.

She mon­i­tored my move­ments con­tin­u­ously, send­ing me re­minders – of­ten hourly – that she ex­pected more of me. I com­plied, mostly: it was eas­ier than deal­ing with her mute dis­ap­point­ment.

Stand up, she’d say, and I’d obe­di­ently stand. You’re so close to meet­ing your daily move goal, she’d coo. A brisk

10- minute walk should do it.

I’d go to the step be­tween the kitchen and the sit­ting room, and run up and down it for 10 min­utes un­til she tapped my wrist, sig­nalling that I could stop.

Some­times, I’d be on my way to bed, and I’d feel the trill on my wrist that means she wants some­thing. My hus­band fre­quently en­coun­tered me jog­ging on the spot, while brush­ing my teeth. Once, he came up­stairs to see what the crash­ing was, and found me do­ing naked star jumps in the bed­room.

But, as the years have gone by, and I’ve be­come steadily more in­ured to her nag­ging, our re­la­tion­ship has de­te­ri­o­rated. Ev­ery week, like the dis­ap­pointed spouse I feel she has be­come, she sug­gests we try again, only with the bar set a lit­tle lower.

You met your 280 calo­rie move goal twice last week, she’ll say, tersely. ( She prefers to mea­sure achieve­ments in calo­ries burned than steps.)

She’ll sug­gest our move goal this week should be 250 calo­ries. You’ll see, I think an­grily, set­ting it back to 280 calo­ries. The fol­low­ing week, she’ll be back with an I- told- you- so. It’s a vi­cious cir­cle of dis­ap­point­ment, blame and re­crim­i­na­tion.

The no­ti­fi­ca­tions I get these days are verg­ing on the pas­sive ag­gres­sive. You had a great day last Thurs­day fort­night, she’ll say, through a sup­pressed sigh. Why don’t you try again? Be­cause you don’t own me, I shout back. Oh my God, stop nag­ging.

My chil­dren look up, a mix­ture of hor­ri­fied and im­pressed. Not Daddy, I say. I’m not talk­ing to Daddy.

Siri? The four- year- old asks, tilt­ing her head sym­pa­thet­i­cally.

But even though this re­la­tion­ship doesn’t seem to be do­ing ei­ther of us any good, I can’t quite give her up. She’s still on my wrist, run­ning her for­lorn com­men­tary on my medi­ocre ac­com­plish­ments. I won a De­cem­ber chal­lenge for “reach­ing your daily stand goal one time in De­cem­ber”. We’re at the prais­ing each other for putting out the bins stage.

Since I don’t work with Sa­muel any more, I don’t even have my slightly dys­func­tional com­pe­ti­tion with him to pro­pel me on. In news that may or may not be un­con­nected, I bought my hus­band a Fit­bit for Christ­mas. He has taken to tex­ting me screen­shots of his daily steps. Day one: 14,207 steps. Day two: 17,937 steps. Day three: 18,790 steps.

Siri, get your coat. We’ve got a date.

jo­con­[email protected] irish­times. com

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