In the early 1990s, the power of the slap bracelet was unquestioned. It was a dangerous tool, wielded by the most popular and fashionable members of my second grade class. Wannabes would cluster around, ogling the latest acquisition, be it a sparkly, hypnotic number or one featuring the likeness of a preferred Ninja Turtle. I was drawn in by the fame of it, a wearable social weapon with which to gain friends and intimidate enemies. I was profoundly late to the party, though, acquiring one long after the fad had exploded and just two weeks before the sheathed metal bands were deemed contraband.
At the age of 30, I am reliving that experience on a daily basis. You see, I do not have a FitBit.
In the early 1990s, the power of the slap bracelet was unquestioned
For the last year, I didn’t think much about my lack of a fitness-tracking device. Despite my diet, I’m unintentionally skinny, so weight loss was never an issue, but I do make an effort to use a stationary bike twice a week to ensure that my heart doesn’t explode. The FitBit seemed to be built around encouraging the sedentary to start moving, or the already-exercise-obsessed to proclaim to the world how impressive they are. I fit neither of those descriptors.
And yet, snap bracelet-esque envy has begun to creep back into my daily life in unexpected ways.
I recently took a long weekend with friends out on the North Fork of Long Island. Based on the amount of beer consumed over the weekend, I wouldn’t consider the group overly obsessed with health — and yet about half of the assembled were wearing telltale bands or clip-ons.
Some members hadn’t seen one another in close to a year and, upon spying that they were wearing FitBits, they each took a few minutes to acquire the other’s account name, adding them as friends through the app. Those in the group who had been FitBit friends for longer would exclaim, in awe, when they noticed someone else had posted staggering mobility numbers and regimens were shared.
Meanwhile, I sat meekly in a corner, waiting for the conversation to ebb and for the weekend to begin in earnest.
The kids, I believe, have a term called "FOMO"
The kids, I believe, have a term called "FOMO," or "fear of missing out," which generally refers to "awesome parties where awesome things may happen," thus forcing you to stay out considerably later than your preferred bedtime. Ever since that weekend, I’ve been FOMOing (am I doing this right?) over the prospect of being once again removed from the conversation loop.
The other thing driving me towards the fitness-attachment craze is the urge to crush my girlfriend in some sort of competition that doesn’t leave each of us scowling at the other person. Up until now, our outlets for this have been games like Hearthstone, but those generally end with an "Oh, fuck you!" and a few minutes of silence before we decide to play against strangers instead. Threes was another "competition," until her skills far outmatched mine and I angrily buried the app deep within an unused folder.
Apparently I’m not the only one who wants to get a FitBit to show-up his significant other. While walking back from brunch, my girlfriend and I overheard another couple.
"See, that’s not fair!" said a tall, scruffy guy in typical slacker sunday-wear. "Mine should count for more!"
"But I’m taking more steps! Of course it should count for more, it’s more effort for me!" said his girlfriend. At just over five feet tall, she was decked out in workout clothes and was obviously more in shape. It quickly devolved into escalated voices, and my girlfriend and I shared a knowing smile. But all I could think was, "I want to be having that fight! I want to complain about the fairness of FitBit tracking technology and whether my strides should count for more!"
I hate wearing something on my wrist but I hate not knowing what time it is even more
Instead my girlfriend comes home every day, proudly proclaiming that she passed her step count goal and I give her a high five. Way less fun than fiery competition that would lead me to unnecessarily circle the block just to get an edge.
My last and most superficial reason for wanting a FitBit: I hate wearing something on my wrist but I hate not knowing what time it is even more. And yes, I could pull out my phone, but I’d much rather just glance down and see what time it is. My options are: get a dorky carabiner watch for like $10 on Amazon or get a FitBit One for $100 with the fringe benefit of being part of a social phenomenon.
I’m close to my breaking point. Each day has more FitBit conversations invading my office and social media feeds. I see people using their GPS devices to draw lions and tigers, centaurs and dicks. Step leaderboards have become battlegrounds, with cash prizes on the line. Insurance companies are even giving premium incentives if card holders track and share their movements. I know it’s reaching a tipping point, a point at which no one will ever want to share their exercise routines with the world again. FitBit and its ilk will buried in an Arizona landfill, never to be heard from again. And, two weeks before that point, I’ll be buying my first FitBit.