As of late I have an unsettling feeling as if an ominous shadow is peering over my shoulder. From the always-listening speaker in the living room to a wrist device recording the hours I slept the night before, I’m finding myself increasingly uneasy.
More and more I feel tethered to a modern version of Big Brother, an omnivorous consumer bent on capturing the most intimate details of my life. And with each passing day, I am questioning my comfort of being linked to a bank of computers located in the figurative clouds tracking everything from my heart rate to what streets I drove to the local grocery store.
Last week I took a dramatic step — I bought a new watch that does nothing but tells me the time.
In a world where we are swimming in a feature-rich society, I love the pure simplicity of my new watch. In an odd way, I admire the single purpose of its existence — to passively sit on my wrist, only stepping into action when I tilt my left wrist upward and reflexively glance my eyes downward. Like a great friendship, we peacefully co-exist without asking of anything from the other but can pick up at a moment’s notice and feel as if time never passed.
I realize this might seem odd, but I want my life back — or at least regain a sense of control of what information is being captured.
A friend of mine makes his living pouring and sorting over what is called “big data” or large unsorted data dumps collected from digital devices. His job is to look for both commonalities or individual patterns of behavior from which companies can leverage to make money.
I have another friend in the tourism business who told a group of us she can track behaviors down to when a person arrives in town, whether they turned left or right, where they ate dinner and how much they spent. Doing so helps her better understand how to better develop strategies to get someone to spend more money.
My new watch will have none of this. Instead, it quietly sits on my wrist waiting for me to cast a glance in its direction.
With a black face adorned with a single hand for the hour, minutes and seconds, the watch travels as lightly as seasoned hiker crossing a desert landscape. No creature comforts, nothing extra — utility rules the day.
And did I mention, like a good friend, it keeps my secrets? Never does it upload my activities, my bodily reports or vibrate when my phone rings in the other room. Together, we share a peaceful coexistence based on mutual trust and respect.
Maybe this is age, maybe not. But with each passing day, I ache for simplicity in a world awash in intrusiveness and purported convenience. And with my new watch, I consider this my first symbolic salvo in returning to a more simple time — one I control.
Pardon the pun, but only time will tell.