This is a story that is in some ways about computers, but not enough to justify it going on my blog about computers, so it’s going here.
I am one of those people who wears a smartwatch and likes it, because I am ruthless about turning notifications off. Last week, it started displaying a Service Battery warning. After giving blood on Tuesday, I took it to the local shopfront of its manufacturer (a certain megacorporation named after a kind of fruit, although the brand is immaterial) since I had the extended warranty, and they dutifully booked it in for a free service.
“What’s the usual turnaround?” I asked the gentleman who served me.
“7-10 days,” he replied, “so in that time… you can whack a £10 Casio watch on.”
We jested and made smalltalk as I signed the statement of work. I told him the story I always tell about this: about that boss I had a long time ago with a first-generation Pebble (remember those?) from a faulty Kickstarter batch, who you could annoy by asking him for the time, at which he’d look at his (inert) wrist, and immediately look crestfallen.
I looked at my bare wrist mere seconds after leaving the store. My immediate response was to head down to a well-known catalogue shop (these things still exist) and buy that £10 Casio watch (in fact £10.95-ish.) I immediately reached to my wrist to pay, before realising my error, and priming my phone instead. I got it out of its box and set the time by the clock at the railway station. And then I set about my day.
Something odd happened to my personal energy levels over the following days. I found myself forgetting to stand up from the computer at work. I felt less of an imperative to get up and enjoy the weather—to go for a walk, or a run, or a swim. My energy has always been up-and-down for these kinds of things, but not so much for a while… probably since 2015, when I first got a smartwatch.
Ah yes. This, I guess, is the flip side of those feel good stories you keep seeing about “Apple Watch diagnosed my AFib” or “I lost a huge amount of weight with Strava.” Is it accurate to say “my watch has improved my body image and my fitness and made me feel hotter and smarter”? These are all side effects of exercise, not of wearing the watch. So I worry about exactly how much of my desire to exercise, and as such my physical and mental health and well-being, is dependent on my trying to make a number go up on a computer strapped to my wrist that slaps me if I don’t move enough.
Is this what digital addiction looks like?
For various reasons, since the past two weeks have been frenetic and busy in ways I didn’t expect. So this week note is, in fact, a week late. You’ll get another one in the next day or two once I’ve worked out what I’m going to write.