I was hanging out with a cool, hip friend the other day and she mentioned an app that she really liked. “It measures the quality of your sleep,” she said.
Sleep is one thing I can judge without technology. If I wake up alert as a deer, and bound out of bed, good sleep. If I wake up woozy, as if an IV had been inserted and dripped Kir Royales, bad sleep. But I cried, “I’ll download that app!”, whipped out my phone, and paid good money on the spot.
Later I scanned the screen for other apps I didn’t use, had never liked, or just plain didn’t understand. There was the hiking trail app, even though I hate to hike, and the Spanish language app that lay dormant. There was a disaster preparedness app that in a disaster I would forget to reference. The gratuity app took longer to input than it did to glance at the receipt, double the tax in my head, and add a little more.
This reminded me of my bookshelf in college, cluttered with books that I wanted the world to think I had read, books that I thought I should read, and finally some books I had actually read, but would never read again. Back then I affected a slightly bored, devil-may-care attitude, but curated that bookshelf with the angst of a beauty queen fixing her hair. Each book was selected to show how funny, how smart, how worldly, how oh-so-over-it-all I was. But the plain fact I had curated it said more about me than anything else.
But my bookshelf had disappeared with the advent of e-books. Now the apps on my phone were the new window into my flawed soul. That recipe app? I think I should cook more. That To Do app? I hope to get organized!
What about the sleep app? I wanted to like it, because my cool, hip friend had liked it. I even used it a few times, but then lost interest. I’m sure it measured my sleep quality well, but first and foremost it measured how cool and hip I was hoping to be and, sadly, how uncool and unhip I really am.
Caroline Paul is the author of “East Wind, Rain” and “Fighting Fire.” Her latest book is “The Lost Cat,” an illustrated collaboration with Wendy MacNaughton. Find out more at www.carolinepaul.com and www.wendymacnaughton.com.