By Brad Hinkle 11/23/2019
Creating, sharing, and accessing media has never been simpler. Even cheaper smartphones are starting to rival standalone cameras. Plus, they double up as e-readers, video players, message centers and much more. These formats are beneficial for staying connected, and even democratizing content creation. However, there's a case to be made for analog devices in certain cases. From film cameras to CDs or putting pen to paper, it could be argued that analog still has its place in the 21st century.
A Little Too Picture Perfect?
Access to digital photography is one of the most dramatic changes to media creation in the last 15 years or so. From the beginning to the end of this decade, when around 35 percent of Americans had a smartphone in 2011, the figure now stands at close to 80 percent. The power and performance of standalone, top-of-the-line DSLR cameras is still undeniable. Yet, even cheap smartphones pack enough of a punch to be more than adequate for most casual use. It's no longer necessary to lug around a camera for holiday snaps or bring one to family gatherings. After all, everyone at the event is sure to have a decent, or even excellent, camera in their pocket.
Yet, there's something to be said for the phrase "quality over quantity" at times. Film cameras, even if disposable, have massively declined in popularity over the past 10 years or so, meaning they can be picked up online for cheap. Even the best smartphone cameras can struggle with certain lighting conditions. Few boast the excellent depth of field capture when snapping a mountainous scene on vacation, either.
Used in conjunction, a smartphone is fantastic for taking quick snaps to share on social media or for quick "wish you were here!" messages to friends back home. Yet, many vacationers will admit they're guilty of snapping photos of every little thing.
A disposable camera is both small and light, and the limited exposures available mean each snap will be taken a little more mindfully.
Music on the Go
Music consumption has also experienced a significant shift in recent years. In the 2000s, iPods and other MP3 players meant more people shifted toward digital music ownership. Now, subscription streaming services mean people increasingly don't even own their music. After all, there seems little need to buy albums when everything you could hope to listen to is at your fingertips. Studies suggest 20 percent of Americans had a Spotify account in 2018. That doesn't include the other emerging streaming services.
However, a lack of ownership may sometimes lead to less connection with the media we're engaging with. Spotify and other services are excellent for discovering new music. They also make it simple to create playlists for personal use and especially parties and other events. Yet, the sheer availability of music on these services can make it overwhelming. It can often feel like there's so much to discover, and there can be a fear of missing out on the hottest new music or most exciting hidden tracks.
There's definitely an argument to be made for supporting our favorite musicians by purchasing their music digitally or physically. Indeed, there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of owning the CDs of your most beloved hits either. There's even been a re-emergence of vinyl and cassettes. Some contemporary artists release music on these formats alongside CD and digital formats, pointing to an appreciation of physical media. If full-priced albums too expensive, thrift stores can be great for finding physical copies of music for low prices. Plus, you'll be helping out charities with your purchases.
You've Got Mail
Emails, and arguably more so text messaging, have also made it easy to connect with people across the globe. Gone are the days of expensive long-distance phone calls or waiting for a week to get a letter from your cousin in Australia. Now, you can send instant messages anywhere with an internet connection. The shift has changed society in huge ways, such as how we communicate at work and even apply for those jobs in the first place. It's also changed how we socialize. It's hard to imagine an occasion where people don't confirm with each other they're still meeting up for coffee or heading to a party.
In January 2019, Monocle magazine published its Happiness Formula feature. These give actionable, concrete tips for joyful living in today's world. Returning to the example of vacations, one of their tips is to get into the habit of sending a few postcards from our travels. Of course, being able to keep family and friends informed of our whereabouts by text has obvious benefits, such as feeling less homesick.
Yet, some people are perhaps guilty of never switching off when they're abroad. Putting the phone down for a bit allows vacationers to truly unwind and forget about real life for a while. On the receiving end, who doesn't love getting something in the mail that isn't a bill these days? Sending a postcard or two shows your loved one you're still thinking of them. They're also a cool keepsake from an exotic destination they've maybe never visited themselves. Alternatively, a handwritten letter or note is a classy and thoughtful way to thank someone for doing you a favor, such as helping you move home.
Ultimately, this article is not arguing digital photography, music and messaging services are a bad thing. Indeed, they've both democratized the way we create and share this media, as well as helping us feel better connected. That said, there's an argument to be made for occasionally embracing the old-fashioned ways of photo taking, music listening and message sending. They can both help us be more mindful of what we're consuming and sharing. Plus, they could make us appreciate each photo, song, letter or postcard more than we might with digital formats.