Stepping Off

I’ve walked a long way since I first wore my Fitbit on December 27th 2014. 13,992,079 steps, or 6,606.28 miles if you prefer. I can only recall forgetting to put it on once or twice since then, one of those occasions being when Carole and I enjoyed two and a half days walking a section of the South Downs Way. All those unrecorded steps, lost into the ether. More importantly, what a fantastic walk we had!

For a while, My Fitbit was helpful in encouraging me to be more active. For a while. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my growing discomfort in realising that when I responded to various Fitbit challenges I ended up walking primarily to win the challenge, not to enjoy the walk. At that time I consciously broke a 40 day streak of walking at least 10,000 steps a day, feeling satisfied that I’d noticed my dysfunctional behaviour, and stopped it.

The following two weeks were filled with walking for all the right reasons, and if anything, breaking that streak freed me to walk even further, and enjoy it even more. Sunday morning just gone, as I sat admiring my previous two weeks efforts, it dawned on me that in breaking that streak, I’d not so much broken the pattern of behaviour, just shifted it slightly.

I went on to enjoy a day of Fitbitless hard graft in the garden, and today I’m on my way to Liverpool to attend an event about mental health, minus my Fitbit. I appreciate the initial nudge my 2014 Christmas present provided, and I’ve certainly had my money’s worth from it, but we’re through. I’ll keep walking, blissfully ignorant of precisely how far, and without accumulating any more ‘badges’. The data is no longer helpful.

As an aside I’m left wondering, in a workplace environment where we’re encouraged to gather more and more data, rather than blindly following the herd, should we be asking more questions of each other? Questions like:

  • Why are we collecting this data?
  • What will we use this data for?
  • How long do we need to collect, use, and keep this data?

I used to think it was fine for employers to gather pretty much any data on their workforce. Now, I’m not so sure. Just because we can measure stuff, does it mean we should?

Footnote: I’ve now deleted the app from my phone and asked Fitbit to remove all my data from their systems. No going back. A friend wrote to me saying, ‘I applaud the abandonment of the prison bracelet. The Quantified Self is dead, long live the Qualified Self.’

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