Gadget rich, time poor


Ben Cooper went shopping for a new fitness tracker. What he found equally impressed and disturbed him. Are smart watches becoming too smart? Here are his thoughts…

So, I decided I wouldn’t mind tracking a few of my training activities in a fairly simple way out of curiosity. Simple soon went out the window when I started doing my research and the deeper I went the less I knew and the more questions I asked myself about why I wanted to do this.

Every year we are delivered the top trends in fitness – and how we love a trend! First among these in recent times is wearable tech and it doesn’t look like being dislodged from top spot any time soon. We can now have a multitude of accessories strapped to our wrist, that can measure everything from our quality of sleep to the elevation of a jump, our heart rate, speed, acceleration, intervals, stroke rate… the list goes on. Further to that we can use our tech to compete with others anywhere in the world and be motivated by all the stats that are thrown our way.

Amazing!

We can measure our lives in more ways than we ever imagined and strive to be as efficient with our time and activities as possible, squeezing everything out of every minute of every day!

This is assuming that the purpose of life is to be rushed and efficient, filling every moment with high octane activity or just being ‘busy’. The cost of this is unfortunately being completely unable and often unwilling to pause or even stop for a while and enjoy the moment.

We can also argue that our modern society is the most highly stressed and time poor in history. Stress-related health concerns are prevalent and, despite our obsession with wearable tech, we are more sedentary than ever. Put simply, there are serious physical and mental health consequences to our increasingly busy lives.

As technology evolves, finding its way into every nook and cranny of our lives, it could be argued that it’s achieved its key purpose of increasing efficiency – and is now taking away from other parts of our lives.

It raises questions that go beyond the device and the stats.

You can now go swimming or cycling with your smart watch alerting you to every phone call, message and email, but should you?

When we run trails, hike or simply walk with friends should we be pre-occupied with our speed and the distance we’ve walked or run, or should we be blissfully lost in the freedom, spiritual and physical gain that our adventure provides?

Or kite surfing – is it about statistics and joining a list of competitors for the highest jump, or is it more about the simple freedom of movement and the sense of adventure that the ocean affords?

It could be argued that we often compromise the pleasure of simply being physically active with seeking to measure our outcomes and compare it with others. Not to condemn the benefits of healthy competition, however, should the outcome of many of our activities be as much about good mental and emotional health, as they are physical health? I’m interested to see which or our devices measure this? I hope none do now or ever will.