The Raging Fitbit Controversy

February 23, 2014 Updated: April 24, 2016

The Fitbit Controversy appears to be escalating. How serious is it? I thought it was time to do some research. Now you can decide.

For those of you who have maybe heard something in the news about this thing called a “Fitbit” but haven’t a clue what it is, simply put, it is an activity tracker you wear that monitors your movement and sleep as well as counts your calories burned. Additionally, the online app allows you to enter your food consumption, which helps count your calories, and water intake as well as any other activity you want to log that wasn’t tracked by the Fitbit.

Fitbit has been in the news a lot recently.  It hasn’t been very positive. First there was the controversy surrounding the people who have developed rashes where they wore their Fitbit. Then there was the rather embarrassing discovery that Fitbits track everything, including your sex life. Others are reporting that some people using the Fitbit have become obsessed with tracking their movements and logging more steps to beat out their friends or to meet a new goal to the detriment of their social life.

According to a recent article, the controversy surrounding the skin rash seems to be more prevalent for those who have worn the wrist tracker. It is a very real issue.  A person wears it for a few weeks without incident, and, after recharging it a few times, notices redness under the main part of the device.  According to reports, the skin rash may be due to a metal allergy. The stainless steel casing has traces of nickel that is a known skin irritator. Fitbit has responded that it is working to rectify the problem.

The more amusing, yet embarrassing controversy, is that the more recent versions of Fitbit, the ones you wear when you sleep, also track your sex life.  This is not so much a problem if you are not sharing your information with others online but if you are part of a community on line or have a list of friends and family you share your tracker information with, you may be sharing more than you realized. In fact, I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance who recounted the mortifying story about how she shares her Fitbit information with her father. They decided to get fit together so they share their activity. Well on a recent Saturday night she was with her boyfriend and they had sex late at night. The next morning her father asked her what the heck she was doing working out in the middle of the night. Oops…The Fitbit charts your activity throughout the day and shows what times of day, by hour, you are active. Moral of this story? Take your Fitbit off before you have sex.

Finally, more and more stories are cropping up telling tales of people being so obsessed with their Fitbits and tracking their movements that it is messing with their relationships and the other parts of their life. There are stories of people jogging in restrooms to get their steps in or being late to a meeting because they had to walk to the meeting despite the distance. Or there are those who have to win at any cost to log more steps than their friends or husband, even if it means staying up half the night. There are many such stories you can find in the blogosphere. It is clear, if you tend to have an obsessive-compulsive personality, the Fitbit can become the obsession.

So here is my take on the Fitbit Controversy. But first my confession, I am a Fitbit user. I have been for three years. I love it. In reality, I have not been a constant user over the three years. I will wear it regularly for a period of time but then forget it on a piece of clothing until I find it again. That was until my husband started wearing his Fitbit constantly. Then I started wearing mine constantly. I have the clip-on Fitbit that I slide on to my bra. Once I discovered clipping it to my bra I have never had a problem losing it. Fortunately in three years it has also never irritated my skin. Since I leave it on my bra, I do not wear it to bed. Two of my three children are Fitbit friends, along with my husband, so this is a very good thing. I have been known to jog in the bathroom. I do park further away when I go to meetings to get more steps in but I haven’t yet been late because of it. I am a little obsessed but I think it is fun. I would much rather be obsessed with my activity and movement, motivating others to do the same, than to be obsessed with something less healthy, like watching TV.  Three years ago I lost 50 pounds. With the help of the Fitbit I have kept it off.

We live in a sedentary society where so much of our lives is spent sitting. The Fitbit is a great tool to help us get up and moving while making it fun. As a tool we need to be aware of its foibles. It does need to be safe for people to use so Fitbit needs to come up with a solution to the skin irritation users can experience.  There is something wonderful about more and more people out there working on getting to their ten thousand steps each day. May we all be slightly obsessed friends on the same journey.

RECOMMENDED