Fitbit Exercise Bracelet Is Ruining My Friendships

fitbitI am a competitive person by nature. Give me a race, a contest, a sweepstakes, or a sporting match and I am the first in line, muscles flexed, my timer on. I like to win. I have no shame about that. When I first started running, I always got a small thrill from the fact that I was (mostly) faster than my friends. And while I am never going to win the Boston Marathon, I did take some pride in being fast for an amateur.

So it was with great excitement that I opened the Fitbit Activity and Sleep Bracelet after requesting one from the company. This little red bracelet was going to be my constant companion and finally prove once and for all whether or not I was a couch potato (like I felt) or an "active person" (the box I often checked on exercise surveys).


The Fitbit is relatively easy to set up, so once I got it, I was up and running (literally). Suddenly, my dog -- a pathetic little chihuahua I'd not walked in months -- was my new best friend. I let the dog walker go and found each walk was 2,000 steps. Boo-ya!

On my first day, with very little effort, I walked 15,000 steps. I was hooked. I started inviting friends to join. One of the cool things about Fitbit is the leaderboard -- it's like Facebook meets a scoreboard. You can see all day where your friends are compared to where you are and vice versa.

It was a game changer.

Suddenly, I was not just racing myself. I was racing others. I found myself staring at their smiling faces and wanting to beat them. They only did 3,000 steps today?! Why? I can do five times that! I was huffing into town, walking my dog every few hours, and dragging my lazy 5-year-old out for "just a short walk." One night I started running laps in our dining room, circling the table over and over just trying to get my 15K for the day. I was out of control.

This went on for about a week. A few days in, I ran into my closest local friend at the pool. "I might have to unfriend you on Fitbit," she said. "Seriously, you are too competitive." I laughed. But she was serious. The competition was getting fierce enough that it was making her uncomfortable.

She was not alone.

I got an email from another Fitbit friend a few days later. "Are you on a treadmill all day or what?" she asked me. "It's ON!" Except it wasn't. I was going to win, no matter what the cost -- walks at 11 p.m., runs up and down my stairs. I was losing weight and feeling great. Except I wasn't really feeling all that great. My friends were annoyed.

But it really wasn't about them.

The Fitbit is amazing in the way it forces accountability. I was already a runner, so I started ahead of the game. I was probably walking at least 10,000 steps a day without keeping track, and the thing is, even my friends who were walking less than ME were walking more than they they'd personally been walking before, right? That's a huge win. And as much as it may have seemed that I was competing with them (and I was), the truth is my biggest competition is ALWAYS with myself. Can I run a mile a little faster than I did yesterday? Can I run six instead of five? Can I reach 20,000 steps today?

I had one friend who refused to connect with me, but besides her, my other friends and I no longer talk about it. We are a few weeks in and settled into our own routines. I look at the leaderboard a little, but I look much more at my own stats. Am I doing better than I was last week? Yes? Then I win.

It was close there for a week or two. But friends matter more than miles, and the competition becomes boring. We had other things to talk about and dramas to gossip over. The Fitbits became old news. Once again, we were all kind of playing in our own leagues.

My friends haven't unfriended me despite their threats. I only walked 7,000 steps yesterday and I was OK with going off to bed anyway. The intensity is over. 

There is one major change, though. Every morning when I get up, the dog is there by his leash. His big, brown eyes look up at me, panting away. If I am too slow, he may even bark once or twice -- "Hey, Mom! Let's go! This is our time!" And it is. Into the early morning light we go. Just Rocky and me. His little paws click on the street and I always carry two bags just in case. When we get home, it's my lap he seeks and my pats he likes best. Take that, husband!

It turns out I did come out of this with a changed friendship, after all.

Have you used the Fitbit yet?


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