Smart watch, same guy

In 1995 when we move to Rapid City, I borrowed a mobile phone from my father-in-law for the trip when we came to town to close on the purchase of our house. I carried the device with us in the car and I used it once while parked. At the time it seemed like a device that simply was unnecessary for my life. I even remember saying to friends, I don’t want a phone in my car. My car is where I go to get away from the phone. Within a year I had a mobile phone. I started my ministry here as is typical, by making a lot of visits. I went to nursing homes and the hospital. I visited people in their workplaces. I attended meetings of civic organizations. I got to know the town where I was living and working. And it was difficult for the office secretary to know where I was. I tried to coordinate my schedule with her, and I reported what I was doing, but it was a frustration for her. So I wen to a mobile phon company and bought a phone and a plan. I quickly started to use the device a lot. It was handy to be able to check in at the office without physically being there.

When our son went off to college, he didn’t have a cell phone. A few of years later when our daughter went to college, it seemed important for her to have a cell phone. Then, when she got her own plan and her own phone, we had two cell phones at our house and my wife and I each had our own number. It made me think of what I had been told by Japanese exchange students who had stayed in our home, “Phone numbers are for people, not for places. Everyone has their own phone number.” Japan was quick to adopt nearly universal cell phone usage due in part to the geography of the country. A large population and islands with very tall mountains makes it easy to connect a lot of people with very few towers. It is quite unlike the open spaces of the western United States where, until fairly recently, it has been easy to find a place with no cell phone service.

I was a fairly early adopter of a smart phone. Because I was already carrying a personal digital assistant for my calendar and contacts, it just made sense to carry a single device instead of two.

Then for a while I resisted getting a connected watch. Family members and friends had Apple watches and fit bits and other devices, but I didn’t feel the attraction. In the first place I have been, over the years, fairly rough on watches. I wore a rugged watch, purchased in a climbing store, that could take a lot of rugged use. I also am not a big fan of digital displays, preferring a watch with hands that go around the face. I wear a watch to know about what time it is as opposed to exactly what time it is. Then, when Susan was recovering from her hospitalization for AFib, we decided to purchase watches for ourselves that could measure heart rate, record exercise, and give a simple EKG to determine sinus rhythm and detect AFib. Although the watches weren’t purchased exactly at Christmas we called them our Christmas gifts to each other and started wearing them.

Like other technological gadgets, I soon became quite attached to the watch. The display is easily changed, and I have found a display that looks like a traditional watch with hands that go around. Because the device records motion and exercise, I tend to put it on first thing in the morning to record the fact that I stand and walk around nearly every waking hour. Previously to getting this watch I wore my watch all the time, including while sleeping, so it seemed a bit strange to take off my watch at night, but it has to be charged and so I quickly adapted. So now when I rise, I grab my watch and phone from the nightstand and have both with me for almost all of my waking hours.

The watch is programmed to nag me. It will display messages like, “Your move and exercise rings are usually farther along by now. A brisk walk will help you meet your goals.” I don’t want to become a slave to the device, but I do find that that the exercise goals and challenges issued by the device are a bit of a challenge and I catch myself checking my display to make sure I’ve been walking enough each day. We even turned on notifications so that my watch reports Susan’s activities and she can see mine.

The devices, of course, were designed and programmed by people who are much younger than we. They are continually suggesting that we set higher and higher move goals, something that makes sense for a twenty- or even thirty-something person, but which has limits for those in their late sixties and older. I’m not going to be able to keep up with ever greater exercise goals. The concept of unlimited progress is reserved for those who are a bit younger. My goal is to maintain. I’m not an inactive person. Having owned the watch for a little over four months now, I know that I average 6 miles per day of walking. That’s well ahead of the 10,000 steps recommended for heart health. Yesterday I was over 15,000 steps and over 17,000 the day before. Who needs a pedometer? The watch records that, too. I think they need to have a senior citizen version of the software for the watch that is a little less ambitious with the goals and allows the user to set the pace.

Like lots of others, I have become a bit overly dependent upon technology and devices. It is a challenge that I need to address as I plan for the change of pace of semi-retirement. For now, however, I don’t seem to have much time for reflection, except when my watch nags me to pause and focus my attention on my breathing, which it does on a regular basis.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!