Why wearable tech is so popular, and why I have stopped using it
A missive in favor of living an unmediated life
Welcome, entrepreneurs. I’m so glad you’re here.
I’ve been a guest on two in depth podcasts — with Scott Britton on the importance of mindfulness and consciousness work on the leadership path, and with Michael Karnjanaprakorn about navigating the midlife process. If you’re the type that enjoys podcasts, I hope you’ll check them out.
A friend of mine is building a wearable tech company, and asked me to be a beta tester. In general, I try to be helpful to any founder I can, so this would ordinarily be a no brainer. But for some reason I felt myself hesitating.
I’ve learned to trust those hesitations, so I took a moment. I sat with the sensations, trying to listen intellectually to what my body and intuition already sensed. And I discovered that I actually have a pretty acute resistance to wearables (ironic considering how many I’ve tried over the years).
So much so that I had to share.
(Midjourney prompt: “Wearable tech that makes you forget you have a body”)
Why wearable tech is so popular, and why I have stopped using it
There is more than one way of knowing.
We know things intellectually, like facts. We know that 2+2=4, and that the Earth orbits the sun. And we know things emotionally, through a felt sense. Intuitively. We know the beauty of a sunrise. Or the pain of a broken heart.
But we as a society have prioritized knowing in a scientific way, and have become expert at ignoring or repressing other ways of knowing. We call them unscientific. If we can’t prove HOW the sunrise makes you feel better, it must not. It must be voodoo.
We confuse things that are pre-logical, like our ancestral belief in gods controlling the weather, with things that are trans-logical, like intuition, love, and faith, and throw an immensely valuable baby out with the bathwater.
No wonder that we continue to yearn for a deeper connection. We are not brains walking around on sticks. We are a part of this deep web of life, starting with our animal body, and we have disconnected ourselves from this fact.
I work with clients every day who are expert at one of these ways of knowing. When it comes to logic and reason, they’re completely there. But then they complain about not feeling. And they complain about being removed from the moment. Like they can’t be where their feet are. Because they live entirely in this world of abstraction. And they complain about being hijacked sometimes by actions they can’t logically explain. And when I work with these clients, I’ll often ask them what they’re feeling. And they’ll tell me what they think.
These people, in some ways the most successful, but in others quite lost, like I was years ago, these people, in a way that is sublogical, they somehow know that something is wrong. Some part of them remembers what it was like to really experience life in a raw, visceral way, and recognizes the sterile, muted blandness of their current experience.
And over the course of our working together, I reintroduce them to their bodies. The same way I learned, years ago, I meet them in the mental space and guide them into the parts of them that have other ways of knowing. The intuitive parts.
If you talk to one of my longtime clients, they often begin work out of a vague sense that something is changing, but walking this path back to themselves—from their heads down to their hearts and bodies, and reclaiming their ability to fully feel the moment—is the most valuable part of our work together.
Even in the peak of mental prowess, some part of them knows that something is up. Some part of them yearns to reconnect with the rest of them.
No wonder wearable technology is so exciting. It’s a shortcut.
Simply wear this band, and you can have a relationship with your body again. You will learn, in the sterilized way of numbers, how you are feeling. No need to develop a relationship with your body, no need to reconnect with how you feel and actually experience it. Forget feeling your fatigue, or your sadness. Put this ring on your finger and you can quantify it. Wearables are the quintessential tool of a world that wants to abstract real life, measuring it at the expense of living it.
Getting a biometric reading of your “readiness” score feels like progress, but it’s actually a symptom of a more fundamental disconnection. Like a ChatGPT description of the Mona Lisa, it’s our materialistic worldview’s representation of what it is like to have a body. Very accurate, and completely missing the point. Yes, knowing that you’re a “red” today might alert you to slow down (and if we’re honest probably not for most people wearing that tech), but simply listening to your body’s signals that it’s tired would do the same thing. We have become so lost in our technological abstractions of real life that we have literally forgotten what it’s like to have a body, so rather than fixing that problem we look to technology to explain to us what we can no longer feel.
It’s a short hop from here to wearable technology that alerts us to our emotions. It’s useful to know when you’re mad because your thinking will change, so of course at some point there will be a metric that will tell us. Why bother feeling anger, or sadness, when we can simply be told that that’s what we’re feeling, adjust accordingly, and skip all the fuss?
But like fatigue, anger feels like something in your body; tightness in the chest, heat in the face, tension behind the eyes, maybe. Sadness. Joy. Fear. They all have physiological signatures, phenomenological patterns that mark them for what they are. You don’t have to rely on a device to tell you what you’re feeling. You can relearn these signatures and develop a depth of relationship with your body in which you simply know how you feel. Not because a display told you, but because you have a freaking body and it’s connected to your freaking brain.
But what’s the harm? You might ask. Why not use the Whoop? It’s cool. And honestly, I have given it a shot now on two occasions, and I’ve studied the data. And I’ve done all the things. And what I noticed, as I was becoming more attuned to my body, is that for every time having all that data corresponded to the way I was feeling, there was another time it didn’t. And when it didn’t, I found myself, in the way of someone raised in a technocracy as we all are, trusting the data about how I felt over how I actually felt. I woke up feeling good, then checked my metrics, and felt worse. My relationship with that device was so intimate, it gaslighted me into feeling things that weren’t real. You might say they were real, because the data said so. But I know they weren’t real, because I live in my body.
Nevertheless, most reading this won’t get the message. Most will call me a Luddite (I think I’ve never been called that until maybe now), and strap on their Whoop or Aura. And that’s ok. For the first thirty-odd years of my life I’d have thought this was alarmist and silly, too. Gimme the tech!
Until I stood over the delivery room bed with my son in my arms, thinking, “boy, this is one of the most intense moments of life. I really ought to feel something significant about this, right?” Until I realized just how disconnected I was from my emotions. There is no reason to want to reconnect with the emotions you’ve so conscientiously suppressed, until there is a big one.
Until I started to dive into my body and discovered all the repressed traumas hiding there. All the very valid reasons I stopped feeling, in the pursuit of sanity and a six-figure salary.
The path back to yourself, to an intimate relationship with your emotions, runs through all the emotions you’ve repressed over the years. To turn on your ability to feel this life again, you must feel the things you’ve avoided feeling for so long. And the path to doing that fraught, vital work is through your body.
Unfortunately, knowing you’re 87% ready for the day doesn’t really help much.
Wearable technology, to me, can be a wonderful invention in much the same way that cigarettes and coffee are a wonderful invention. They allow us to be more productive, to better fuel the capitalist machine, at the expense of our health. Granted, wearable technology has a longer time horizon in mind; instead of giving you lung cancer in 20 years, you won’t realize what you’ve missed until you’re on your deathbed.
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