Smart phones and computers are often accused of causing problems in society. People no longer speak to each other. They text or email/IM instead. Even when they are together people often spend their time stroking the little piece of glass they carry around with them instead of making conversation.
I am as guilty of this as the next man and probably more so than most. Anything to make people think I’m occupied and deter them from initiating small talk that I’d have to try and handle. There are times when even I’m aware that I don’t really need to have my phone in my hand but without it I’d just be sitting staring vacantly forward which tends to make people uncomfortable. Since when did sitting in silence count as awkward?
The part of having a phone that has caused me the most grief though, is the fact it started feeding an already unruly addiction. Not an addiction to checking emails or Twitter (I’ve so far avoided even joining). It’s not an addiction to Angry Birds or whatever the current most popular game is. Neither is it the constant need to text people. I don’t talk to people (see above).
What this device did was enable my need to quantify my life. Everything gets numbered and charted and it’s slowly destroying me from the inside. It started when I got a Last.fm account. This is a brilliant website. It lets you track the music you play and then recommends new music. It also give you graphs and charts of trends over time of who you listen to. Who doesn’t love graphs? It works from any computer so if you have two or dual boot one, it means you have a combined play count of each track rather than multiple separate ones spread around different programs. As if this wasn’t bad enough, they then made this available for Android (and iPhone if you are that way inclined) so now music listened to there is counted too.
What’s the problem with all this? It seems so good so far. Well no. See, in my eyes, if I’m going to do something it has to be done properly. If I’m going to keep track of my music it has to be all music. What happens then when I can’t scrobble what I’m hearing? Who counts those songs? No one, that’s who. And when music is listened to without being counted the graphs are wrong. And that’s bad. What this has lead to is a situation where I will avoid playing CDs because they don’t get recorded. I have mp3 players I don’t use because they can’t tell me what I’ve listened to. Don’t even start me on using the car stereo or radios in general. I shouldn’t even care. I’d stop but then I’d have no charts. And then where would I be?
It’s not just music either. I decided it was good to get enough sleep. One way I’d heard to start making sure you do is to keep track of how much you actually get. So I did, but being me I went overboard. I can tell you what time I went to sleep to the nearest minute on any day in the last two years. The phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ popularised as a way of mocking the growth in smartphones really is true. I press a (virtual) button on my screen every evening and every morning. I can’t help it. There’s no point having all those lovely graphs if you know inside that they’re not truly representative of the life you’ve lead.
My weight. I’ve recorded it every morning for the last year. I’ve also recorded the other things my scales tell me. Body fat and water percentage. Those numbers don’t even mean anything. They’re so wildly inaccurate that it’s probably not worth it but I do anyway. The only app I have ever bought for my phone is one that let’s me keep track (the appropriately named ‘KeepTrack’) of all the various numbers in my life.
The sunshine. We have solar panels on the roof and a little LCD display that gives a total units produced. More numbers! Into the phone they go.
Filled the car up with fuel? Better record how much went in somewhere. It’s not as if I’m going to use the information I get from it. I just like the patterns the line makes.
I cycled to work for a while, when it was still light enough. The time for each day was recorded. I wasn’t even trying to beat my time.
It’s not a new obsession either. I have sheets of times for every ride I went on between getting my first ‘proper’ bike (at 14) and going to uni four years later.
Even my watch keeps track of me for me. All training sessions are logged (HR, duration etc) and a little bar graph appears. It’s amazing. The only downside is if I forget to set it for a session I get all annoyed that it’s not noticed.
I’d give it all up but then what? Then where would the graphs come from? The normal would win. I have no choice but to keep getting more and more absorbed by the need to track my life.