Do you miss the analog days of the past? This isn’t just about nostalgia, though. Analog living has value for anyone who craves a simple, slower, more old-fashioned pace of life. Here’s how you can ditch the digital and practice the lost art of an analog lifestyle.
There’s so much to say on this topic, and I’ve been thinking of writing this post for a while now. You see, I’ve been a heavy internet user since my college days, and in the last decade+ I’ve experienced many of the benefits and frustrations that internet brings.
As an adult, I’ve never lived without the internet. But the bulk of my childhood was internet free. We used clunky computers to play Carmen Sandiego, practice typing, and make WordArt. Nowadays, using a computer or device is pretty much synonymous to using the internet…and people are connected almost 24/7.
The internet is a noisy and often exhausting place. And not surprisingly, many people are beginning to miss the analog days of the past, when internet usage was just a small sliver of our day–or even week! What do I mean by “analog”? To me, an analog life means embracing physical, tactile, non-digital ways of interacting with the world.
And here’s where I need to make a disclaimer. I’ll keep using the internet–even rely on the internet for some things–because it does fit with my goals for a simple, flourishing life. You’ll hear me talk about using the internet less, but I’m not saying to give it up altogether! (Although I am curious to read this book about how one lady did that for a year.) The internet lets me write my blogs and reach readers. It allows me to shop online from small businesses I can’t physically visit. And of course I use it for entertainment–reading my favourite blogs and watching weekly installments of “my show.”
Disclaimer over, here’s my point: Analog has value. Value that most of us are passing by because we’re just so distracted and entrenched by all the shiny tinsel of the World Wide Web. For those of us who crave a simpler, more old-fashioned life, we have got to learn to unplug and put the internet back in its box. Stamp it with an “occasional use only” label. Start filling our lives with “real world” connections, activities, and solutions.
There’s a growing body of people who are thinking along these lines. People who are embracing a slow approach to life, practicing digital decluttering, and deleting their Facebook accounts. It’s encouraging and eye opening to hear from people like this, who remind us we don’t need to be glued to our phones. We don’t need to have Yelp and Instagram and weather apps on tap.
In fact, it’s better for our well-being if we don’t. This year, I’ve been reading books that have shaped my perspective on this. The Shallows offered insight on how the internet affects us. Reclaiming Conversation reminded me of the social graces that we develop when we communicate without digital filters. Also, it made me think about how much I want to delay smartphones for my kids! Deep Work–my favourite of the three–was a wake-up call to be a better steward of my time.
Using the internet–judiciously–fits with how I want to live my life. But analog living is something I want to cherish, and it pays to reevaluate my digital vs analog practices from time to time.
7 practical, everyday ways to embrace an analog lifestyle
If you feel like you spend too much of your time online, or relying on digital, here’s how you can throwback to old-fashioned, analog practices. (For more in-depth explorations of internet, phone, and social media usage, I encourage you to check out the books I mentioned above!)
1. Read physical books
Over on my literary blog I talked about cutting back on Netflix in favour of reading more books. And for me, this usually means physical books. I think Kindles are good inventions. I’m not snobby about needing to read printed books, but to me, a hold-in-your-hands book always connects me to the content within more deeply. I don’t know exactly why this is. But I love the way books smell, love feeling the mound of pages under my fingers and using that as a guide to how far I’ve read and how far I’ve got left.
Real books are cozier. So my first and favourite way to get back to analog is to get back to reading!
2. Wear a watch
This is something that will affect you multiple times per day. Do you fish out your phone to check the time? If you want to be less attached to your device, be old-fashioned and wear a wristwatch. You won’t be tempted to glance at your phone when you’re at a restaurant, playing with your kids, sitting in church, etc.
Not long ago Eric bought me a vintage 1960s Swiss watch I picked out on Etsy. Apparently most of the ladies’ watches made nowadays are quite large, which isn’t my style. This one is petite and works well for both casual and fancy. It’s a bit of old-fashioned, classy style that I love–I just have to remember to wind it each day!
3. Be social without social media
Go on coffee dates, join a book club, and practice hospitality to nurture your relationships locally. For long-distance friendships, catch up with a phone call and write paper letters, instead of always falling back on Facebook.
4. Play boardgames
Whether adults or kids, a lot of people’s “play time” is mediated through a screen. So for analog entertainment and play, break out the boardgames! It’s a great, non-TV way to spend an evening. My 90s childhood was full of Sorry and Clue and Monopoly. I love these classics, but game options have soared–now we love Dominion and Forbidden Island and Codenames. (I really should write a post just dedicated to our favourite games! Would you read that?)
5. Use real film
When I was young I remember a dinner guest raving (boasting?) about his digital camera. None of us had seen one before. I was duly impressed, but also wondered how “real” a digital photo could be if you couldn’t hold it in your hands. And I also wondered: if a digital camera lets you take hundreds of pictures…wouldn’t you feel rather compelled to take hundreds of pictures? Sure enough, the man showed us how he had taken about 50 pictures of a raccoon. With that many, he said, he was sure to have gotten some really great shots.
I know, the novelty of digital cameras is gone now, so most of us aren’t taking 50 pictures of raccoons. However, I believe the ease of digital still keeps us overly tethered to our phones. And although it is nice not to store a bajillion print photos, we have suffered a bit of a loss in not flipping through hold-in-your-hands photo albums like we used to. Don’t you think? I miss that, and I want to get more of our pictures printed.
6. Write things down on paper
Admittedly, apps are handy for keeping track of things. But there’s just something about writing things down on paper that I’ll always love! I think my brainstorming is more creative when I put pen to paper page. Try keeping a list journal, and see if you don’t agree.
7. Get information from people and books
Google and Alexa want to know everything, but no matter how refined they become, you’ll always be getting information filtered through an algorithm. Although it takes longer, sometimes it’s more helpful and rewarding if you actually dig for answers in a library book. Or call someone who would know. Also? I think you might remember things better if you have to work for it just a bit more.
Like the other “Lost Arts” I’ve explored in this blog series, embracing analog is a rewarding practice. At the very least, make it a point to cut back on email and social media, remove apps from your phone, and turn off notifications. Then enjoy the peace and quiet.
This post is part of my “lost arts” series, where I pick an old-fashioned habit to discuss and talk about why we should blend it back into our modern-day lives. Here are the other posts in this series (I’ll be adding more in the coming months!):
And here’s my post on 5 Old-Fashioned Habits That Are Due for a Comeback