Smart technology will not save your life

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

We are Analog

 

I read “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter” (2016) by David Sax. It sounded fun as I get looks like “I’m such a bore” when I ask someone not to interact with my child by showing them photos or internet research on their phone or if I ask my phone-addicted guest to please put the phone away because my children are creeping their little wide eyes over his shoulder.

Why does it matter? Sax argues society has been told the tale too often that analog is dead, digital is the future. I put my Canon Rebel DSR (film) camera on consignment at Camera Center in Modesto. We sold the darkroom equipment on Craigslist. Chemicals were too expensive, so I never got started. Then Camera Center closed. I forgot to pick up my camera. Digital it is.

 

 

Digging through boxes to KonMari my way to peace and happiness, I happened across artistic photos I developed from my glory days as a college student in Minnesota. To look at a photograph and not a screen was remarkable.

 

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Photo by krisna qodhar R on Unsplash

 

I want to listen to live music. I want to read a real book. I want to hold my newspaper when I read it. Ask Heather or Joyce at the library and they’ll tell you when I come in on Tuesdays, I pick up the paper, look for my articles and return it to the stack. There is something about seeing the real thing in real life. It feels different. It is exciting.

Sax explains why the experience is so different. As analog beings, we understand and engage with the world through our five senses. The more senses engaged, the deeper our engagement, the stronger our reaction. For a gross example, to smell and see and hear someone vomit is so much worse than just finding it on the bathroom floor.

As I watched an opera singer perform in the spotlight as the orchestra pulses the sound waves in our direction, the lights low, her costume flickers like so many stars, I held my breath in awe at the sheer power of her voice. Spotify has nothing on this.

 

 

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Ashley Bell debuts as Madame Butterfly with Townsend Opera Players

 

 

I get antsy and easily distracted when there is too much digital in my life. It is a frequent trouble because I do not write these many words by hand.

In his book, “The Mindful Catholic,” Dr. Gregory Bottaro puts his finger on why that is, “Every time you use this device or watch TV, you practice anti-mindfulness. Imagine how many hours you have spent practicing anti-mindfulness exercises, in which your mind is not aware of what is actually present in the moment. In this time and space, it is a phone, or TV, or whatever, but your mind is focused on the news, or social media, or shopping, or whatever it is that you are looking at.”

Digital takes us away from the here and now. Because digital has made a whole host of things easier, we often assume it is better. Thus it floods our lives and world. Not thinking about carries us along for the ride and before we know it, anxiety levels are up, distraction is up, relationship quality is down.

Practicing mindfulness has the power to combat it. Do not let the term throw you. At its core, mindfulness is awareness of the present moment. Sit and read a book or, ahem, the newspaper, and enjoy it for all it has to offer. Notice how good it feels to hold the pages, the way your eyes travel on the page, how it feels to look at the page with all its imperfections. Notice the arch of your arm as you lift your cup of coffee and take a sip. The way the smell of coffee lingers even as the cup clicks against on the table.

That was your mindfulness exercise for the day. The world moves so fast, we have to choose to slow down. With all the information, all the stimulation, we have to choose to focus in.

Analog isn’t dead. Sales plummeted, stores closed, but production continues and is now growing. Let’s welcome the experience.

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