Smartwatches detract from normal life

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In a January issue of The Tartan, I wrote an article called “Fitness trackers more than just a trend.” I argued that fitness trackers, like Fitbit’s line of wristbands and other wearable technologies, are here to stay and will become increasingly popular as makers round out their capabilities to include more functionality, such as the ability to respond to texts or speak through the devices. Since then, a number of device makers, including Samsung and Motorola, have announced or launched a variety of smartwatches and trackers.

Now, I’m writing again to say these devices are too much. After purchasing a Pebble smartwatch inNovember, at first I enjoyed screening texts and calls on my wrist. I could continue conversations with friends in-person while simply flicking my wrist to see incoming notifications. I could even check the number of steps I took through a downloadable pedometer with functions similar to a fitness tracker, and scroll through my Twitter feed without ever pulling my phone out.

After a while, though, I found myself constantly checking my wrist as an influx of emails, text messages, and social media notifications went straight to my watch. I couldn’t read a page of a book efficiently or remain fully immersed in a conversation for more than a few minutes before my smartwatch called my attention. Eventually, I turned off the device’s bluetooth capabilities so that it only told the time. Nine months after I purchased the watch, it lies in my bedroom uncharged.

Smartwatches and other wearable technologies seem to have been developed with the idea that people will check their phones less if they integrate technology into their daily lives in less intrusive ways. After all, if a person doesn’t have to continually remove their phone from their pocket to check it and possibly respond, they should be able to more seamlessly screen notifications to determine if it is worth interrupting a daily activity for.

However, in my experience, these devices do just the opposite. By placing notifications on a person’s wrist, smartwatches and other wristband-like technologies just make the distractions more accessible. They force people to feel the buzz of a notification that they would not normally feel or take the time to check. With the notification at the ready, though, there’s no reason not to check it. Instead of checking their cell phone periodically, people can look to their watch every time it buzzes. And if rumors of an imminent Apple iWatch announcement are true, it seems these devices will become a mainstream trend this year — possibly even tomorrow — when the tech giant is set to announce new products at a press event.

To combat the distractions these devices offer, people must learn to limit the notifications pushed to them. It’s possible to customize which notifications go to the watch and which only go to the phone screen.

While even limited notifications can be distracting, fewer pings to the wrist can help to keep people in their conversations and away from their notifications. If people limit their notifications to these devices, they can ensure their technology doesn’t become overwhelming.