My FitBit Alta Is So, So Patronizing

The Fitbit Alta is the latest in a line of well-intentioned wearables that is designed to give users an awareness of how much they’re actually moving during any given day. This, at its core, is a noble mission. Everyone should be made to “oh, dayum” about how little they’re moving around, because not moving around is a pretty bad thing for your overall health, and nobody has ever said, “Hey, know what would be ideal for me? Moving less.”

So Fitbit Alta and its predecessors found a significant problem to tackle. The newest model has gone all-in with all sorts of bells and whistles and tracking metrics that you can use to monitor your exercise, steps taken, sleep, heart rate, and calorie intake, right down to the last bite of Phish Food. All good, in theory.

My main problem with Fitbit Alta is this: I have not run across a piece of technology that comes built-in with the ability to be extremely patronizing in quite the way this small purple wristband does. Now, maybe that’s just my personality, which does admittedly trend towards the cynical. But even so, it’s been my experience that some of Fitbit Alta’s well-meaning attempts to get you moving are, well, annoying. Even though that’s the whole point of the product:

  • It will occasionally toss out a “motivational message” if you’ve been moving around for awhile — along the lines of, “Great job, Julie! You hit 2000 steps! Keep it up!” The hilarious part is when you haven’t been moving around much, and then you happen to get up to, say, walk 25 steps to grab another Hot Pocket, Fitbit will obsequiously praise even your smallest effort. So when I see, “FANTASTIC JOB! You walked 250 steps!” I laugh. Because what it’s saying is, “Gee, you’re more hopeless than we thought! BUT WE CAN WORK WITH THIS AND WE LOVE YOU ANYWAY and GOSH, what a super job, ya lovable blob!”
  • It is designed to politely suggest that you get up and walk when you’ve been sitting for awhile. It does this by vibrating your wrist — mainly shocking you like the bulky piece of human livestock you are. Which, let me tell you, is actually kind of jarring if you’re in the middle of working on something and you’re getting into a flow state. In all fairness, you can probably opt out of that somehow, but it’s not readily apparent how, and I’m not that motivated. Which, of course, is precisely why I initially needed a Fitbit Alta.

And then there was my biggest disappointment of all. “Walk 10,000 steps and see a big celebration on your wrist!” gushes the Fitbit app. Hey, I like celebrations, I thought to myself. Let’s do this! Yaaaaaaas! So I got to 10,000 steps and even managed to not eat any Hot Pockets on the way, and at step 9,999 I gleefully looked at my wrist and prepared to party …

… and it was, like, a split-second of halfhearted fireworks. Oh, Fitbit. You oversold me, and I fell for it. Shame on me.

It’s a great step tracker, though. I just feel like Fitbit should come with some different personality options. I think I’d respond better if my Fitbit were a bit more insulting and sarcastic.

More questions:

  • Fitbit: Is the Fitbit Alta waterproof?
  • Mobile Technology: Why do most mobile phones have batteries which are not replaceable (nowadays as of 2015-16)?
  • Wearable Technology: Are smartwatches worth buying?
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