My lovely girlfriend recently received one of these annoying little Fitbits as a gift and has been using it to make changes in her day-to-day lifestyle. This device monitors her health by expertly estimating how many steps she takes in a day, her calorie intake and outtake, and how much she sleeps. Since the devices know so much about the people who use them, all of these Fitbits should clearly be seeking employment with the NSA.

I told her being constantly monitored by a little machine seems creepy to me, especially since no one seems to know exactly who has access to this highly personal information that the Fitbit is collecting. If I wanted to have all of my lifestyle decisions be micro-managed by a secretive group whose credentials were questionable, I would just seek employment with Neosho County.

Getting healthy and being in decent shape should provide someone who cares about that type of thing with enough motivation to eat right and exercise without requiring the participation of some nagging busybody of a machine. Still, if it makes my lovely girlfriend feel better about herself and helps her improve her health, I guess I am willing to put up with the irritating little Fitbit.

My girlfriend’s use of this machine to improve her lifestyle decisions has ended up having a residual effect on mine, which initially didn’t seem very fair. Since she started using this device to count her steps, she has dragged me along on the long nighttime walks that she now takes throughout various parts of Chanute.

Before she insisted that I be involved with this type of undesirable physical activity, the only exercise I was getting was repeatedly doing arm curls to lift various bottles and appetizers to my lips and staggering home from downtown bars. The concept of walking somewhere that didn’t involve either work or alcohol consumption seemed pretty foreign to me.

While these long strolls through town to accumulate steps at first made me want to shake my fist at the sky and curse the locally holy name of NCCC baseball coach and local Fitbit proponent Steve Murry, I have actually learned to enjoy these nighttime walks. In today’s world of fast food meals, smart phones, and social networks, these walks give us rare time to actually enjoy each other’s company without a bunch of time constraints and distractions.

Plus, getting these steps in provides me with valuable time to think about important issues like which fast food restaurant or local bar I can talk my girlfriend into stopping at on our walks together. I’m clearly the ideal walking partner and personal trainer.

I’ve also come to discover that, as creepy as the Fitbit is, it ultimately teaches its users a very valuable lesson. We hear so many promises of quick-fix solutions in today’s society, whether on television commercials for pharmaceutical companies promising to easily solve all medical issues or in speeches from politicians who tell us that all social ills would be cured if we’d only vote for them. Yet both our personal and societal problems tend to persist no matter which pill we take or which political party we support. Often, giving money or votes to those who make pie-in-the-sky promises ends up doing more harm than good.

In reality, problems are solved incrementally, by taking one small step at a time. For all the bad things I can say about the Fitbit, at least it demonstrates this quality to its users. It shows them that goals can only really be accomplished by a slow and deliberate process. It is a lesson that needs to sink in for goal-oriented individuals, whether they are losing weight and live healthier or making improvements in the country, state or community in which they live. Great achievements are made by planning and persistence, not by empty promises and grand gestures. Making a positive change requires patience, grit, determination, commitment, and sacrifice – qualities that seem to be lacking in our “I want it all and I want it now” culture. It may be a little bit idealistic to think that widespread acceptance of something as creepy as a Fitbit could bring these values back, but that might at least be a good goal for us all to walk towards.

Another thing that Fitbits could be used to teach is that most goals are reachable, if someone is only willing to take the steps to get there. Some local politicians seemingly don’t believe this, as perfectly good ideas have been left abandoned just because of the time, effort and sacrifice required to reach a goal. Voters who actually see the merits of these plans are left frustrated by this, wondering if there is some way we can illustrate our desire and willingness to take the necessary steps to reach this goal. Maybe we should just all band together and buy these politicians’ wives a Fitbit.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, Fitbit complaints, or recommendations on good area walking trails to brian@chanute.com.

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