Jeremy Felt

A semi-quantified self

I've had a Withings "smart scale" since January of 2010. There are a few periods where I lapsed, but for the most part I have 8 years of data tracking my weight, fat mass, and BMI.

Looking back, it's kind of crazy that I spent $160 on a freaking scale. But fast forward 8 years and it's pretty impressive that some earlyish IoT device was able to survive a half-dozen moves, a few wireless routers, the acquisition of it's manufacturer, and still sync data to a cloud somewhere that generated a fun long term graph.

In January of 2012, we got our first Fitbit trackers—18 months after I sent Michelle an email with a link to their website titled "This looks pretty cool".

Daily use seems to wear these out faster than the scale. That, and the release of new trackers starts giving you feature envy. I got a Fitbit One in August of 2013 and then upgraded to the Fitbit Charge 2 in December of 2016.

There are a few periods where the battery ran out, but for the most part I have 6 years of steps logged somewhere showing me how active I am.

Previous Fitbit trackers required a bulky wrist strap and the manual start/stop of your sleep time so that it could determine sleep quality while you told it you were asleep. The Fitbit Charge 2 changed that for me. It's easy to keep on your wrist almost 24 hours a day and it tracks sleep without any manual trigger.

Early last year it was fun to wake up and open the Fitbit app to see what it tracked. It quickly became the first thing in the morning routine.

After several months, I probably started relying on that number too much. Michelle would ask how I slept the night before and I would reply that I hadn't checked yet. 🙃

It would also be confusing from time to time. I would get what I thought was a great night of sleep, then open the app and see that I was supposedly awake for an hour and a half. This is fine, as I'm not expecting this $150 watch to really act as a replacement for actual scientific sleep monitoring equipment, but it did make me wonder what my purpose for tracking this was.

In addition to the inaccuracies, I recently had trouble sleeping a few nights. I laid awake in bed for hours a couple times, which is something I've never (thankfully) had trouble with. One of the things I focused on during these hours was how I could always feel the Fitbit on my wrist. My brain would then start wondering about the constant Bluetooth, etc, etc…

Anyhow. A couple weeks ago I finally slept without my Fitbit on for the first time in a year… and I slept amazing!

This is all anecdotal, but for a couple data-free weeks I've slept through almost every night and felt better about my sleep in general. Go figure.

So I'm switching back to a semi-quantified self.

I'm still wearing the Fitbit every day to track steps and heart rate, but I'm done wearing it through the night. It seems interesting enough to have paid attention to sleep for this long and I think it's good to focus on getting the right amount of sleep, but there are probably more effective things I can do than monitor that data.

There's a good chance I'll find a new reason to change my mind or try a different device/method for tracking sleep—especially if I learn that it's more accurate.

Quantified self is fun, but semi-quantified is just fine. 🙂

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