Mid-downward facing dog, I peer up at the Google Fit app. I am twelve minutes into what I guess will be a 25-minute yoga practice. When completed, I’ll have four “checked” days in a row, meaning I logged at least 15 minutes of physical activity for four consecutive days. I will screenshot the accomplishment and post it on my Instagram Stories with the caption “Got it done.”
Mid-downward facing dog, staring at the screen, I ponder what I track and why? I am not on my mat to lose weight or transform my body. I do yoga because bodies need to move and it is one of few fitness practices I can tolerate. With no goal beyond “get your ass up and move,” what do I gain from the daily check marks? Another thumbs up in a cacophony of electronic “You did it!”?
For the rest of my practice, I wonder: do I need this?
Twenty-four minutes after I hit my mat, I un-install the Google Fit app.
# # #
Google thinks I need to know British royals’ racists statements about Meghan Markle.
I like Megan Markle the way I like people I “know” through television. I pin her outfits from Suits and paparazzi photos to my style boards on Pinterest. As a black girl in a serious square-jawed-actors-with-U.K.-accents phase, I’m mildly interested in her pending nuptials to Prince Harry.
I don’t need notification every time she breathes.
Nor do I need to know about the latest must-have $20 toner recommended by Korean skincare experts. Yes, I spent my summer frantically seeking weapons against my skin’s pimply rebellion. But I’m off that. I swore off experimentation and am sticking with a simple routine of products under $10.
The barrage of suggestions are not suggestions. They are desperate demands for my attention.
- “You read liberal opinion pieces. See Joy Ann Reid’s latest Trump take-down tweet here.”
- “You like JAY-Z. See why he’ll cheat on Beyonce again here.”
- “You watch Game of Thrones. Check out the latest random Reddit fan theory here.”
- “You do yoga. These 10 yoga poses will reduce belly fat.”
- “You researched unplugging. Here are five ways to break your phone addiction and become more productive.”
This is how it ends, isn’t it? Submitting to screens full of anticipatory algorithms, narrowing my scope of the world to my likes.
# # #
The first thing I notice when I examine my browsing history is how many passwords I have. Passwords for websites I frequent. Passwords for sites I’ve browsed twice. Passwords for that thing a friend asked me to sign up for. A handful I can recall off-hand, but the majority require auto-fill. I open a spreadsheet and input the sites/passwords I need. Amazon, Dreamhost, Flash Seats. I remember when I remembered things.
How much thinking have I outsourced for the sake of convenience?
# # #
I want to think. With every click, I want to be awake and discerning.
I want to escape the clutches of tweets and think pieces and hashtags and algorithms.
I want the reality of my reality to be enough instead of seeking confirmation on a screen.
I want my brain back.