A manifesto for a more wondrous age.

When I bought my phone, I was given a smartwatch for free. I’d seen people with Pebbles and Apple Watches, but this was my first experience actually using the technology. I remember watching the Apple Watch announcement, still at the time an Apple acolyte (as I type from a Mac), and finding disappointment in the announcement. As far as I was concerned, they hadn’t made a case for it.

After using it for about a week, I put it aside, returning to my analog watch that I love dearly.

With the new year and my new goals of tracking information, I gave it a second chance. It offers a lot of features that would be useful to me, not only tracking my steps and activity, but allowing me to see notifications as they come in, logging my coffee / water intake, and heart rate.

I’ve just set it down once more, and I don’t think I’ll pick it up again. But it’s not for lack of maturity in the technology, or not being useful to me, it philosophically changes my perception in ways I don’t like.

The watch changed the way the world is structured, and have had profound effects on our thinking and our culture. Each update in timekeeping, like the addition of daylight savings time and revision of timezones, send ripples throughout communities small and large.

And even something like changing watches had a big effect on the way I live.

I’ve worn a watch for years, starting in elementary school, and both of my parents have always worn watches. The watch is an extrospective machine, focusing your attention on the world around you, allowing you to reframe your ideas with new information. How much time is left? What is happening right now? What should I be doing?

A smartwatch however, is a narcissistic venture. Instead of focusing your mind on the surrounding world, it focuses you on yourself, and this is a key difference. How much water am I drinking? Who’s texting me? How active am I?

What’s the purpose of a watch? To tell the time, of course, but to me it’s more than that. I wear a watch as a physical reminder of the time passing. Not only a reminder of my commitments, a steel revision to the string tied around my finger, but a reminder of time itself.

I’m of the mindset that everyone has more time, especially free time, than they realize. We’re just not very good at optimizing it. If I were better at managing my time, I would be more productive. Simple, right?

And yet, finding the time to be as efficient as you can while still having fun and enjoying yourself is hard. And if you’re not enjoying yourself, what’s the point? It’s a difficult balancing act. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a quote:

“While you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that.” — Arnold Schwarzenegger

Does this mean you should never have fun? Of course not. But you need to be careful that you’re maintaining the balancing act of time, not giving in too much to either side. That’s not to say that the things you should be doing can’t be fun. Just that it’s important to weigh the urgent items against the important ones.

I would consider myself a data-optimist, someone who thinks the more information one has the better, the better informed the better decision we can make. Changes my watch, even for a few weeks, showed the flaws in that line of thinking. While it’s good to be informed, we have to weight those costs against our philosophy. I found that focusing so much on the information presented actually detracted from my enjoyment of the day, and the intention of the watch in the first place.

Now, I’m back to my analog ways. Minimalism is good. And until something makes a case for the alternative, this is where I’ll be.

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