The Daily Valet. - 2/3/24, Saturday
Weekend of February 3rd
By Cory Ohlendorf, Valet. Editor
I’m not giving up my phone anytime soon, but I will stash it away now and then.
The Life-Changing Pleasure of Going Analog
Why taking a slight technological break can feel amazing
Vacations are vital to break out of your day to day life. I don't know about you, but as much as I try to fight it, I'm a creature of habit. I like trying new things, but the truth is that most days, the predictability of a routine is incredibly comforting. That's why I love taking trips. Traveling forces you out of your routine and offers you a chance to vacate your normal life. That's why I pack clothes I never wear in my normal life—I'm free to experiment.
This is how I ended up in my recent analog love affair. I was off the clock, away from home and looking to unplug as much as possible. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't after some monastic lifestyle. I'm not crazy. It's 2022 and whether we like it or not, we've all been programmed to rely on a certain level of electronic assistance. And it's made life easier in countless ways. I don't even remember a time when you had to actually wait to find something out or look something up in an encyclopedia. I do remember a time when you had to actually type in a question to get an answer from Google. Now you just blurt it out to Siri.
My devices are all synced and with each day, they envelop more and more of my life. And things like my phone, social media and news alerts have become an ever-increasing distraction from other important things I'd like to try and focus on. Of course, trying to pull back from our digital dependence is difficult—a sisyphean task, really. But I wasn't looking to quit. Just ease up. And being away made it all the more easy.
First I pulled off my Apple Watch and strapped on my vintage Rolex Air King. Yes, I wanted to flex a little but it was more about the need for a watch that simply told me the time—not that I have 4,520 unread emails, or that I haven't stood enough today or that there was breaking news on the other side of the planet. Every time I glanced down at the timepiece, I got a little joy because it was a reminder of something I loved and hadn't worn in a while.
Analog options, I came to realize, have a certain romance and civility to them. They're simple in the way that our modern devices are inherently complex. Gadgets are designed to perform multiple tasks and get your attention to badger you to do something (and do it right now!). Which explains why more and more of us are enamored with old school machinery—be it vintage typewriters, streamlined dumb phones or old school film cameras.
Take, for example, the humble alarm clock. Basically a forgotten relic at this point, it's an easy way to slow down (and slow your heart rate) in the morning. Sure, our phones are more than capable of waking us up, but starting your day with a list of alerts, emails and texts can sometimes be an unsettling way to greet the day. Something like the OneClock—a dedicated alarm with a powder-coated aluminum body, knurled knobs, a wood face and bright, mid-century-inspired clock hands—works wonders. It's minimal but hardly simple. It utilizes custom, science-backed waking music that's engineered for a gentle lift from sleep.
Analog waking clock, $299 by OneClock
On my trip, I cracked open a new book—determined to start and finish it before returning home—and enjoyed the simple pleasure of reading the printed word on paper. It was tactile, physical and easy to pick up or lay down on my chest when I wanted to rest my eyes for a bit. Mentally engaging yet free of any distractions, the act of reading somehow became a decompressing experience, like sitting up to your neck in the warm, swirling waters of a hot tub. Let me tell you, being outside, with the breeze blowing against me as I flipped the pages, it was genuinely exhilarating.
The same could be said for listening to music. I was never one of those vinyl devotees, expounding on the virtues of records and their “warm, fuller sound.” But according to Scientific American, there is some truth to the theory that a record, with its physical grooves creating sound waves, produces a richer, truer sound than a digital file. Acoustics aside, I've come to realize that when I'm using a turntable, I'm simply more engaged in the act of listening. It's not as quick as scrolling and tapping or skipping songs with the flick of a finger. You commit to an album and you handle it physically, looking at the cover jacket and slipping it out of the sleeve before placing it down and positioning the needle. That kind of time investment makes the music pumping out feel like a reward.
M1 turntable console with SONOS functionality, $11,999 by Wrensilva
Delayed gratification could be seen as a rare luxury in a world of instant reactions and immediate payoffs. There's a reason why my friends who are into photography have been putting down their fancy digital cameras for simple point-and-shoot film cameras from the '90s. One just paid a shocking amount of money for a like-new Contax T2, the titanium shooter beloved for its superior build quality. Me? I found a more affordable, digital Holga to play with. No, it's not film, but the cult toy camera has no preview screen, so you simply snap pictures and find out what you captured later when you plug your SD card into your computer. It's the same mystery and thrill of not knowing what you've got until you develop film—with the added benefit of taking as many photos as you like.
Used digital camera, $207.15 by Holga
Which is the perfect metaphor for my analog love affair. I wasn't looking to cut out technology completely. I love the internet. Hell, I make my living here and you're reading this on a screen right now. But I just didn't want to be so plugged in. Breaking my digital habits seemed unrealistic until I started taking little steps. I needed that break. We all do. We spend so many mind-frazzling hours tapping and typing away. And often there's nothing physical to show for our efforts. This is why so many people picked up a hobby during the early days of the pandemic. It's an easy way to ensure that you engage in purposeful and mindful activities that result in something tangible.
Whatever form your analog experiences take, make sure to give yourself a break from technology. Start journaling, long-form on paper. Give yourself 20 minutes to stargaze at the end of the night. Pick up a new hobby. Just find some way to provide yourself with some much-needed time away from these glowing rectangles of distractions that are at the center of our lives. Because we know that research proves we're better off without it, but the experience is even more rewarding.