When I developed technophobia, I was standing in line for The Genius Bar at humble Albuquerque’s Apple Store, our only nice thing. With my phone broken, I was left with no option but to stare off into space like a caveman. Every surface was a screen of some kind, and all were advertising same thing:
People of all shapes and colors wearing watches and looking the part of a successful modern human. Nice sweaters, yoga pants, coffee, blogs. The videos rifled through the watches’ features: texting, phone calls, step counting, and…? Heart rate monitoring. Just standing in line, watching young people in Lululemon sprinting and reading their watches was more than I could handle. Heart rates. Beats per minute. 150 beats per minute, sprinting up bleachers. That’s not fast enough. Not nearly fast enough.
Three waves rose on the horizon.
The first: A heavy wave of technophobia and nausea for modernity washed over me. How could anyone want this? Constant, digital access to their most vital process? A kidney monitor, even a lung monitor would be alright. But hearts are wild, irregular things. They rise and fall in an instant. My worst fear in a watch. Did it flash red if your heart rate was too high? If I wore one, would it flash red in perpetuity? It seemed impossible this could be so casual. Surely there would be doctor’s notes, disclaimers, orientation videos on how to adapt to the sudden, immediate access of your own heart.
Really. Who asked for this?
I made a simple, logical conclusion while standing in line. If everyone else in the store, on the earth’s surface, wears these, they must have a tame heart. An even, calm heart throbbing in slow meditation. And they look at their watches and nod appreciatively. Good heart. In conclusion, I must be fundamentally different from the modern world, who are capable of handling Smart Watches. I couldn’t fit in, because I couldn’t wear a Smart Watch without my life descending rapidly into panic. Technology wants access to the body, and I’m terrified of what it would find in mine.
The second: a paradoxical, infinite wave of need and repulsion took my feet out. I felt two fundamental emotions, fixed and throbbing. I would never wear a Smart Watch. Like a arachnophobe to a spider, so I became to a Smart Watch. I would need to take precautions, I would need to know if there was one in the next room. And here I was, in the Apple Store, surrounded by babbling Smart Watches.
Then gravity shifted. Like any object of fear, I felt inexplicably drawn toward them. I need to wear a Smart Watch. Just for a second. Maybe I could borrow someone’s. I need to put it on and see what it says. Please, Smart Watch, take the responsibility and give me some good news. Just for a day, I’ll wear one, and then I’ll know. It will be good news… But what if it’s not? 1oo bpm’s, 150 bpm’s, in the dead of night or washing carrots, freakish behavior exposed by the mirthless, cold face of a watch advertised as helping people become their best selves. No. I can’t wear one. But I have to.
So I became the creepy peeper of Smart Watches. I gawk from the corners’ of my eyes. “Hey, is that a… Smart Watch?” Their wearers explain the features, the perks, but I’m far gone. I simply lick my lips, wipe sweat from my hairline, and sink into a trance from which I might run screaming or, my hand already reaching before I speak, ask in a tender, aroused voice, “Can I… wear it?”
The Third: now adrift in the surf, I barely feel the last, most tidal wave, but I catch its backflow. Smart Watches, all incoming technology, harbor dangerous secrets. They want to measure how alive I am, a task that clocks in some form have always done with ticking countdowns to death. That wasn’t enough. Time needs to know the comber of your pulse now, so that it can graph it for you. And monitor your sleep and steps and life in breaths. Smart Watches hold the secrets to my palpating heart. If I don’t wear one, I won’t have to know.
Til the dawn of Smart Watches, we lived our lives in comfortable ignorance. I see it in my parents and their friends, people who’ve lived happy, unscrutinized lives not knowing the finest points of their health. I must have that ignorance; it has become my hermit island. I will walk, detached, through a sea of Smart Watches with little radiant numbers, 80, 62, 91, 173. In due time, I am sure nano-robots will relay our blood pressures to Smart Watches as well, and I will pass on that too. I am content in my ignorance, because I am scared of the truth. Even if the truth would save my life. My little watch, its screen flashing the color red and the words, “You Are Having A Heart Attack.” Probably it would call 911 for me as well. Thanks technology, but I think I’ll just let the heart attack blindside me.
The Draining: Most mental illness engineers fear, and the fear in turn converts trivial concerns into eminent peril. Molehills into mountains. Part of healing involves deflating things back into proportion. For me, being able to wear a Smart Watch and calmly note my heart rate is a destination. Hopefully, by the time I get there, even the decision to wear or not wear won’t feel momentous. With time, maybe I can choose to pass on a Smart Watch as a general distaste for invasive technology rather than acute repulsion.