“Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right” – that right there is one of my favorite lines by singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco.
The thing is: both tools and weapons can have the unintended consequence of misfiring, giving us a false sense of security or harming the person who wields it.
The thing about technology is that it’s great when it’s working and simple, but it can easily start to hurt us.
There is no shortage of apps, trackers and devices that we can use to measure our progress in the world.
Want to see how far or fast you go on a bike? Pros use things like Garmin or Strava.
Want to lose weight? You might try FitBit, Digifit, Runkeeper, MapMyRide, MyFitnessPal, LoseIt, just to name a few. Even Apple has a new health interface for the latest iOS and Samsung has something similar integrated into their smart phones. You can get a bluetooth connected scale to instantly sync up your weight to partner apps, and you can even measure the quality of your sleep with something that sets under your pillow or on your bed side table. Nike+ has been helping runners measure pace and distance for years, and I hear that now Underarmor is doing something with their clothing line that is nothing short of amazing.
With technology, the sky is the limit! You can collect data points on just about every facet of your physical life if you wanted to, but are those metrics everything their assumed to be?
How come if you search for broccoli on MFP you’ll get more than one result for the calorie count? How do you know the calorie burn estimate it gave you for your 45-minute dog walk is accurate? If weight loss is your goal, and you’re relying on technology to shepherd you through the darkness, you could be eating more calories than you know, and burning less calories than you think.
Even if those assumptions are accurate, what happens when the technology itself goes awry? I got a bluetooth chest strap that links in with Digifit. It worked for like a month and now the app doesn’t register the HRM any more. I spend 20 minutes being frustrated as hell trying to get something to start working, something I’ve been relying on to tell me how hard I’m working, and when it doesn’t work I’m defeated before I even begin. Dead battery? That’s a bummer.
Are we over tracking? Maybe.
If you forgot to hit “start workout” on MapMyRide, did your ride even happen? Yes, Virginia, it did – and if you feel like maybe it didn’t because the app failed to record it, and you couldn’t share it with your people – then you’re starting to identify the feeling that tells you if technology is hurting or helping.
We live in a world with ever increasing possibilities, and ever sharable moments and metrics. Not only is it easy to track everything we’re doing, but to share it in a social setting where we can compare ourselves to other members of the community. Maybe that makes us feel good because we perceive that we worked just as hard as someone that we admire, or harder than someone we know. Or maybe we perceive that we didn’t perform as well as someone else, and then that whole thing – whatever you did for yourself, within your own body, at your own capability – maybe we then think that thing is for nothing.
I’m not saying that technology and community has no place in helping us achieve our goals, but when the technology becomes the goal and community makes you feel worse – then there’s a problem. And that fake-ass “community” just ain’t for you.
Or maybe you haven’t even gotten started because you’ve been studying product reviews on Amazon and C-Net. You could spend weeks and months looking for just the right thing, only to never decide, and ultimately do nothing because you wanted it to be perfect from Go, and couldn’t start until it was all set up. Analysis paralysis.
At what point does technology become a crutch, or even an obstacle, rather than a tool?
Should we eschew every piece of technology and head back to stone age? Now that doesn’t sound like fun, but I do think there is something simple here begging to be revealed: stick to things that are real.
Here are some things I know for sure: A mile is a mile. An hour is an hour. My body is my body.
Do you feel the need to track? Use paper and pen – cutting edge technology for centuries! Take your time to write things down. Where did you go, what did you do, for how long, and how did you feel? Tracking food? I’m not going to tell you not to use an app or device for that. I’ve consistently lost weight when I’ve done it. But if you’re looking for a panacea or a magic bullet, you’re not going to find it in an app, you can only find it when you understand the principles and do the work.
Tracking can help you to reach your goal, as long as you don’t let it roll you over and become the objective. Stick to things that are concrete, and then take a moment to genuinely evaluate how you feel about the work you did.
Remember: “every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.”
Tell me in the comments below: What kind of tools do you use to measure what? What do you like/dis-like about it? I’d love to know.