Kathleen Parker: Count Me Out

Our growing obsession with self-tracking is obscuring the deeper meaning of our lives

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What is surprising is that I also feel resentment toward my little nag band and find myself offering excuses and, you guessed it, self-justification. (Notice how often the word self pops up in this discussion.) When JB tells me I've been in bed for nine hours and got only three to five hours of deep sleep, I hiss, "Yes, but I was reading!" Actually, I was probably playing solitaire on my iPad, racing to beat my own record, which is, of course, quantified against those of other solitaire players in the universe. This is no way to relax, I should mention. As for taking fewer than 4,000 steps, well, it was raining.

But never mind. For JB, it's all about the numbers. No excuses, no whining. It is a fact that I can't pull anything over on him. He has his talons gripping my pulse and knows me better than anyone. He sees when I am sleeping; he knows when I'm awake. What else does he know?

The creepy feeling surfaces that the bracelets we wear voluntarily are but precursors to those we will wear involuntarily as we become more digitized and systematized. How long before JB and his ilk deliver not just information but little shocks to the collars of those who lounge too long on their tuffets?

I'm not yet ready to part company with my minder, but I can feel my passion for self-quantification ebbing. Partly, this is recognition that those things that bring us satisfaction--loving, giving, allowing our mental fields to lie fallow--are unquantifiable, which is what gives them special status in the well-lived life. Not knowing, not keeping track, not making endless lists, not charting our sleep and graphing our activities ultimately may prove to be the saner way to live, in countless ways.

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