A writer laments the loss of a constant companion
There are so many reasons to distrust a monolith like Facebook, from the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the dispute over whether or not Facebook is a publisher or a tech platform. Facebook is a behemoth, and its Brobdingnagian steps elect presidents and shake economies. But its tiny steps matter too.
On July 31st, Facebook killed a harmless app called Moves. Facebook acquired Moves in 2015 and then quietly announced its burial in 2018, just before the July 4th holiday, and they killed it for no good reason other than they owned it and no longer wanted to play with it.
Moves was the killer app in my life. It’s a free app that counts your steps, calculates calories burned, and can even tell you how much time you spend at work, home, and commuting. These are SOP for fitness apps, but Moves is special because of its tracking capability. Moves works like a geographical diary – it not only shows your steps, but allows you to see where you were every minute of the day. Every night, I go over my day to see where I was, add check-in points (like a friend’s house) and compare steps from the rest of the week. It’s not uncommon for me to take my dog on a frantic late-night walk around the block if I’m close to 10,000 steps for the day.
Moves was my constant companion since I downloaded it 1,950 days ago – March 3, 2013. Any app could tell me I walked 5,918 steps and calculate 2.5 miles. But Moves told me it was a Sunday, and I took my kids on a walk in the park, then we went to the grocery store, and then to Target. A prosaic day, but I’m delighted I have a record of it. In July, I see the day I entered the hospital for a major surgery. I see recovery days of zero steps. I see the day in late summer when my beloved mother-in-law died and the hours it took for us to drive to Chicago. Moves was with me as we attended the funeral and shiva, and all the steps we took in the grim days that followed.
Moves was with me when a wallaby jumped on my foot in San Antonio, Texas, at a science convention. Moves tracked me in London at the National Gallery when I saw The Arnolfini Portrait up close, it tracked me down deep in Thrihnukagigur Volcano in Iceland, and ate dinner with me when I took my youngest to Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta. I walked 5.4 miles that day. The next day, we walked 8.7 miles in Atlanta, and I can even see exactly when my daughter and I went bird watching in Centennial Olympic Park. All of these wonderful, terrible, and everyday memories will be lost after July 30, when Facebook will permanently end Moves.
For all the data mined and shared and stolen by Facebook, they killed the one private source of data that was all mine. I’m sadder than you can imagine to lose Moves. I have so much data on it that it took an entire day to download it all. On July 30, I had 1,976 days with an app I loved. After that, I was finished with Moves, and there’s no good reason why.