When was the last time you listened to a cassette tape? Did you exchange mix tapes with a high school crush? How about mix CDs or songs you recorded as they played on the radio? The rise of the information age has all but “killed the radio star,” as the ’80s anthem goes. As a culture, we’ve shifted to the immediate gratification of streaming music and other digital media, which means many of us are plugged into our digital devices all the time.
More often, texting takes the place of face-to-face conversations. Parents are tracking their kids’ “screen time” in an effort to stem the flow of digital attention-vacuums such as YouTube cartoons into their children’s lives. Office jobs keep workers attached to laptops after we leave the office for the day. Screens are ubiquitous. Is it any wonder our attention spans are becoming shorter and our interpersonal interactions fewer and farther between?
Enter the analog.
There is a whole movement of people who prefer old-school devices to our current digitized reality. Mix tapes, vinyl records, stationery, paper planners—all are old-fashioned ways of presenting data that we see and hear digitally every day. But those who still use them are dedicated to keeping them alive for reasons of simple enjoyment. The bonus is less screen time and more interaction with the people and pastimes they enjoy.
Could the analog be part of the antidote to a life spent on screens?
Musician and record producer Jonathan JP Parker currently owns around 200 albums on vinyl, “which is significantly less than I had owned in the late ’80s,” he says. “At one point I probably owned close to 800 record albums and 45s.” Parker owns 7 Spin Music Studios in Valparaiso and says the sonic quality of analog music, especially record albums, is “far superior” to that of digital music.
“The warmth and overall feel of analog music cannot be replicated in the digital realm,” Parker says. “Inherently, digital information is based on a rigid representation of ones and zeros. That’s great for collecting data and gathering large amounts of information into a small space, but not so good for music.”
Parker acknowledges the benefit of digitizing music is storing a lot of files in a small space. But the quality lost is something that has concerned enough artists and producers that the music industry has seen a resurgence in vinyl. Parker explains, “Due in large part to DJs still spinning vinyl and more artists making their product available as record albums, vinyl sales have increased by 260 percent from 2009, with 9.2 million sold in 2014 and 11.9 million in 2015.”
WRITE IT DOWN
Like music, other industries have seen a return to the analog, making an art form of objects that were once simply mediums. For example, handwritten to-do lists, paper planners, and written notes have been largely thrown-over in favor of email, digital calendar and note-keeping platforms. But the art of “snail mail” and physical planners are being rescued by those dedicated to putting hand to paper.
Katie Sannito, owner of the Gourmet Goddess in Munster, uses handwritten notes to give her business a personal touch. She loves a good stationery store and uses all manner of paper to stay in touch and organize her life.
“I think letter- or note-writing has become a lost art in this fast-paced digital world,” Sannito says. “Too many times people think an email, text or a Facebook comment are suitable communication. A well-thought-out, handwritten note or letter is timeless and I think greatly appreciated by the one receiving it because it lets them know that you took the time to think of them. That never goes out of style, personally or professionally.”
Jamie Bruinsma, owner of after8handmade in Crown Point, also organizes her life on paper, using a hard-copy planner. “I have always been the sort of person who loves the feel of paper and a high-quality pen,” Bruinsma says. “I love to write. Many have asked if my handwriting was a font.”
Bruinsma runs her five-person household and her business out of her planner, and says it’s a boon to her efficiency. Every appointment, school reminder and custom business order gets added to the planner.
To those who are interested in transitioning from digital to handwritten planning, Bruinsma offers encouragement: “There’s just something about seeing your life in front of you, away from a screen. I feel more in control and less screen needy.”
HOW TO UNPLUG
If you want to unplug from the digital realm but can’t seem to resist the siren call of your screen, you’re not alone. “Oftentimes people are not aware of how much time they spend in front of screens,” says professional life coach Jamie Monday, owner of Grace Life Coaching in Crown Point.
Monday advises her clients to keep a log of their screen time, because the first step is assessing the problem. “We need to bring more awareness into how much time we are spending in front of screens, because oftentimes it is not a productive use of our time and it is taking us away from relationships or just accomplishing daily tasks.”
The next step is changing your routine. “Put your phone in the glove box so you don’t check it while driving,” Monday says. “Put your phone in your purse when you are out to dinner so you don’t go on it. Do something different when you get home from work instead of sitting in the same chair and watching TV all night. You may even need to leave your phone at home or turn it off for periods of the day.”
There are even apps such as Freedom that can block your use of distracting websites. Google “social media fast,” and, ironically, you’ll find a wealth of resources for “detoxing” from your social media channels.
The benefits of disconnecting include better sleep, stress recovery, and more meaningful face-to-face interactions. In place of your screens, plug in get-togethers with friends, group meet-ups based on your hobbies—such as a book club—or local cultural events.
Carving out more time away from the digital can be as simple as filling your calendar with the people and pastimes that mean the most to you.