Growing up in a time without smartphones or streaming made life much simpler. My connection to this world, to the present moment, was stronger with my disconnection from technology. Nowadays we spend too much time looking down at our devices, widening the distance between us and our surroundings. Once ordinary and thoughtful activities have now become mind-numbing digital tasks.
Road trips used to be communal experiences with the passengers navigating for the driver while playing the classic license plate games. In these digital days, long drives consist of entering the destination into a GPS and going where you are told by the monotonous voice. There used to be the risk of getting lost or misreading the map. Now, these trips are lost in streaming movies and unsettling silences.
Disposable cameras grounded us in the moment. We didn’t worry about the photo composition or the visual aesthetic. Rather we captured a moment, just as it was, to look back on in the future. The photo required a development process as opposed to instantly appearing in the digital library. This frozen moment was cherished more deeply as it lived prominently in the photographer’s life, from the instant the camera clicked, to the image finally being manifested into reality. The joy and sentiment that comes from piecing the photos together to a physical object of nostalgia is felt through generations yet to come.
Before audiobooks and streaming services, there were paperback books and portable CD players. The beholder of these items had control over the lifespan of the art. Holding a book in two hands and physically turning the page gave the reader the power of the story’s longevity. By turning a page, the characters’ lives went on, the story continued to unfold. But by closing the book before reaching the end, the story was frozen in time, forever remaining unfinished. The gift of handpicking and starting a CD puts the listener in the conductor’s position. The ability bestowed into the listener’s hands, that of preventing the CD from reaching the final note with the click of a button, allowed the story of the music to continue living.
These digital days certainly have their benefits. But I will always miss the charm and connectivity of the days gone by.
This photo essay was originally published in the print version of Emerge magazine.