This is the story of how I talked myself out of buying a smartwatch and how you can too.
I always wanted a Fitbit, ever since my mom got one. I’m also a sucker for fitness-related trackers, devices and apps. I’m not as obsessed with weight loss as I was when I was in my twenties. But logging all of my exercise and physical activity data without doing any manual work sounded fun.
Besides, I had a gift card I could use to pay for the device, so I could justify the expense.
At first, I was looking at the cheaper Fitbits. You know the one without the heart rate monitor? At cool 70 bucks, I could wear a pedometer on my wrist. But there were so many features I’d miss out on. For only 30 more greenbacks, I’d get the heart rate monitor to track the stages of my sleep cycle. Which I so obviously need because I’m a sleep-deprived mom.
Then, I found out if I wanted to also respond to text messages I had to go up another $50. I mean, I hate missing texts from my husband while he’s at the grocery store. If I only told him, yes, please bring me vegan ice cream, I could be stuffing my face right now.
Now at $150, I might as well get a smartwatch instead of a fitness band. They were cuter, had more features and band choices. Price: 170 bucks.
These devices have a never-ending cascade of better features for more money.
I had no intention of spending $10 more than my gift card balance when I initially picked out that cheapo Fitbit… but that was the plan after a day or so comparing all my options.
See how they got me?
Then, only by the grace of God was I able to come to my senses and remember this journey that I’m on: minimalism, not buying extra junk, spending less money so I can have more freedom, not making the same mistakes. But it wasn’t that simple for me to snap out of it.
The first thing that clued me into having a problem was when I Google searched “reasons why I shouldn’t buy a smartwatch,” and the only thing that turned up were reasons why I should. I started to suspect a conspiracy was in play here. I switched to Bing for my web search to see if I could find something to convince me I shouldn’t.
If you need to talk yourself down from buying a new gadget, ask yourself the following questions:
Is it healthy for me?
Is it really healthy to sleep with electronic Bluetooth or wireless device on my wrist next to my 20-month-old? I’ve always felt a weird tingle from wearable Bluetooth devices and when I keep my phone in my pocket. I mean, I’d have to wear the thing all the time, right? Would that be truly comfortable? Healthy?
So after a little hunting on the web, I found what I was after. All of these devices, smartwatches included, emit EMFs.
Wellness Mama gives a great breakdown and explanation of electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) and what the current research says about it. The conclusion: frequent low levels of EMF exposure is not great for humans.
Further research of my own uncovered the following from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Check out their first sentence:
The National Toxicology Program (NTP) concluded there is clear evidence that male rats exposed to high levels of radio frequency radiation (RFR) like that used in 2G and 3G cell phones developed cancerous heart tumors…
We’re at 4G ya’ll and about to go to 5G (no comment here on the conspiracies about this…).
Although, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is quick to make sure we don’t stop buying cell phones.
“The exposures used in the studies cannot be compared directly to the exposure that humans experience when using a cell phone,” said John Bucher, Ph.D., NTP senior scientist. “In our studies, rats and mice received radio frequency radiation across their whole bodies. By contrast, people are mostly exposed in specific local tissues close to where they hold the phone. In addition, the exposure levels and durations in our studies were greater than what people experience.”
If tests on rats aren’t worth anything, why bother? Science tests EVERYTHING on rats. I’m no scientist, but common sense indicates there has to be some applicability or relevance here.
I also saw some comments in a Fitbit forum that basically declared someone crazy for questioning the safety of a Fitbit device. The FCC says it’s okay, so it must be fine right? I should just ignore the uncomfortable feelings in my body that I get from Bluetooth and cellphones? Right? Nothing to see here, groupthink in progress.
The US government has given its stamp of approval on many things we later realized were very bad (ahem cigarettes, ahem slavery, ahem Tuskegee experiment). Do we totally and fully understand how electromagnetic frequencies interact with the human body/human’s electrical system? Are there sufficient studies, like long-term longitudinal studies on human beings on these high-tech gadgets?
I came to the conclusion that sleeping with the device might not be such a great idea. Thus, I was able to talk myself down from the $170 device back down to the hundred-dollar device (and put the $70 one back in play).
What’s the device’s lifespan?
The next thing I started to think about was what’s going to happen to this thing in 5 years or 7 years when it doesn’t work anymore? I have a giant diaper box full of outdated, broken and no longer useful technology. This collection includes a netbook and a Polaroid camera from the 90s. (There really needs to be a word for outdated technology– not just a descriptive word like obsolete– like an actual noun. Ideas anyone?)
Unfortunately, I don’t think the Fitbit will give me 5 years. Fitbit lifespans, according to internet forums are 9 months to 2 years. So when it breaks at 1.9 years, I will probably despise it, like every other piece of obsolete junk I can’t in good conscious throw in the trash.
How much will I really use it?
So let’s say I get lucky and it works for 2 years. To get my money’s worth, I’ll have to wear it almost every single day find and find it useful the whole time. The Fitbit and the app, and my phone I pair it with should all work together perfectly. It won’t get glitchy after a year. The stars align and I’ll be completely satisfied until this thing kicks the bucket.
HA! I already know, it will be tingly, glitchy, and I’ll get tired of wearing it every day– probably after a couple of months of ownership. Truth is, I’ve never loved any piece of tech so much I wanted to pay a higher price for the new & improved model. Not even the iPhone.
Is it worth the hassle of ownership?
If I actually do like it enough to wear the device every single day, I gotta take care of it and make sure it doesn’t get scratched up. I have to keep my child from chewing on its rubbery silicone wristband. I have to keep track of the charger. If I spend enough, the battery will last seven days and I might not have to take my charger with me when I travel. But I will anyway because traveling always denotes higher usage with tech.
I have to worry about losing it or having it stolen. Also, not breaking it, because when I wear a watch, I’m always slamming it into walls and scratching it up.
Is it going to improve my life, or am I going to get addicted to it, like my smartphone?
As I looked at more and more pictures of Fitbits and other smartwatches on they started to look like bracelets used to control people. Maybe I watch too much sci-fi but wearable jewelry that tracks your every move and your bio stats in movies/tv is often used to control the people who wear it.
I’m reminded of the shock collars worn by slaves in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents, power dampening collars worn by the DC comic heroes when they’re captured, and ankle monitors worn by people under house arrest.
This will be one more device I’m constantly checking for the time, my step count, and every notification from my phone. One more tether.
What happens when the device becomes obsolete? What’s next?
If I actually wind up loving the thing, despite everything I’ve mentioned above, I’m going to have to shell out another hundred dollars or more for another one in a short amount of time.
The old one will end up in a box because it’s fried and I’m unable to wipe the data. Or maybe in a landfill. Or maybe as an unsafe toy for my kid.
In other words: more clutter.
Still not talked out of it yet? This video brought me to my senses.
How do you talk yourself out of buying more tech?