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If You’re Happy and You Know It…Wag Your Tail?

Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

Calling all life coaches and relationship therapists! If you have shy clients who have difficulty expressing themselves in personal relationships, I might have an answer for you:

A cat tail.

No, I’m not talking about a wetland plant or a strange variation on the luck-evoking rabbit’s foot. I’m talking about a cat tail that wiggles when you’re happy (and droops when you’re calm).

You may recall an earlier post I wrote about a very strange product called the Necomimi – a pair of cat ears that uses electroencephalography (EEG) to detect the wearer’s mood and move the cat ears accordingly. You might also recall that I was, um, not too enthusiastic about this exploitation of the human condition.

Well, the company that makes the Necomimi is at it again. This time, the product is called the “Shippo” and consists of a long, lush tail that you attach to, yes, your butt. Sensors on the forehead and ear measure electricity and pulse to determine the wearer’s mood and then transmit instructions to the tail via Bluetooth. The tail then wags or wilts.

At least the sensors are not attached to our posteriors along with the tail. Claiming that biofeedback data about our mental state could be mined from this region might have been a tough sell.

The Shippo debuted recently at the Tokyo Game Show and is expected to be on the market by the end of this year. And I’ll bet my fuzzy bunny slippers that people will buy it.

Why? Some may say simply because it’s fun. This may be true, but I see a more insidious motivation. You see, we live in a society that makes it increasingly difficult to be emotionally authentic. Whether at work, in intimate relationships, or in our communities, we rely on emails, texts, and tweets to divulge our feelings. In contrast, we’ve become less and less comfortable showing our true emotions face-to-face. A bizarre product like the Shippo might be just the ticket for people who want to show someone they are smitten with them but just don’t know how to do it on their own.

The irony in this trend is that when we live behind the mask of technology, we often share too much because we feel somewhat anonymous. Is it really wise to tweet to hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of people the details of a relationship, a (once) private dream, or a professional vulnerability? Similarly, is it really a good idea to walk down the street with a cat tail attached to our rear, making everyone look at it when it wags and letting people come to their own conclusions about what this indicates?

I think not. I am not saying that social media or related technology is bad; in fact, I use it regularly to build my writing business and to maintain friendships. But I do this within personally circumscribed boundaries and careful judgment.

I encourage you to consider whether you are being emotionally authentic in your daily life or if you are starting to live behind the mask. If you are unsure of how you feel about this, I suppose you could snap on a Shippo and wait for the results. But I hope you will choose to have coffee with your partner or friend instead.

Keep Reading By Author Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
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