Something has always intrigued me about the people who use fitness trackers like FitBit. I'm talking about the people who really use their fitness tracker, like getting-off-the-subway-two-stops-early-to-get-in-your-10,000-steps dedication. What struck me about these kind of users is one glaringly obvious flaw in their enthusiasm: it's not sustainable. At some point, I believe, everyone will stop using their FitBit.
"I guess I kind of just woke up one day and said 'hey, let me try taking a break from this and see what happens,'" said Cari Romm, an associate editor at New York magazine's Science of Us blog. Romm recently penned a blog post about ditching her FitBit after months of dedicated use (she told me she really would get off the subway a couple of stops early to reach her daily step goals).
"I was getting tired of feeling like I had to pace at night [to get in steps], and feeling like it ruled my life," Romm said. "At a certain point, you're going to get burned out if you're emotionally invested in it. It's just mentally exhausting to sustain that investment for the rest of your life."
This is perhaps no more apparent than in the "For Sale" section of Craigslist, a veritable graveyard of abandoned fitness wearables. But what makes these people decide to suddenly quit the church of FitBit and, with great finality, hawk the used goods on Craigslist to repeat the cycle with a new worshipper? I reached out to a few folks on Craigslist to find out why they're selling their FitBit, and if they ever really bought into the hype.
"These bracelets were also pretty popular at the time and I wanted to be a part of it."
Some wrote back to tell me they never really like the fitness tracker in the first place. Maria Vidacovich, 38, told me she's trying to sell her husband's FitBit because the band irritated his wrist and eventually broke. Darion Humphrey, 22, has only had his FitBit for a few months but is selling it because he also found it uncomfortable, and said it didn't do a good enough job tracking his heart rate.
But others had bought into the hype of FitBit and were dedicated users for months before the bloom was off the rose.
"I play sports (basketball and softball) and wanted to monitor my activity. These bracelets were also pretty popular at the time and I wanted to be a part of it," Clark Noto, 37, told me. But after about a year of regular use, Noto said he felt like he has a pretty good understanding of his fitness stats and doesn't need to constantly track it.
"I got good use out of it and know where I stand with my activity levels."
Some FitBitters are just moving onward and upward with their tracking devices.
Jordan Payne, 35, said he used his FitBit to for a few years to keep track of his daily activity levels, but over time started to use it less and less. Plus, he has an Apple watch, which he uses for some of the things he used his FitBit for. "I keep an eye on my overall calorie burn, how much I stand (I have a standing desk at the office) and track my bike rides with Strava, mostly from the watch," he said.
Payne wasn't the only one to tell me he'd replaced—or wants to replace—his fitness band with a smartwatch. Aside from the fatigue of constantly tracking your every movement, fitness bands are limited. Smartwatches offer a lot of the same features, but with the added benefit of also basically being a phone.
It's unlikely fitness wearable will disappear any time soon (just check out Twitter's #FitBitFriday thread for evidence of its enduring popularity), but the intense competition and reward structure of FitBit's most dedicated users is something that burns out eventually. For some, like Romm, that means giving your device a break and only using it occasionally to check in. For others, it means going cold turkey and liberating yourself from the rubbery shackle for good.
But if you feel the lure of the FitBit clan calling, I know where you can get one real cheap.