The phenomenon of the digital world is an intriguing one for me. Since my childhood, I’ve lived in a rapidly changing world. But in the last two decades, physical consumption habits and gestures are gradually shape-shifting into digital and virtual.
Let’s pause for a minute to appreciate the amazing advancements achieved in the past 20 years, providing us a very comfortable life style. So comfortable, it is often taken for granted.
Through the years I've witnessed the analog home phone changing to the digital buttons phone, then to cordless, and then of course to mobile phones. The shift took less than 20 years – during which we progressed from memorizing phone numbers and spending a good 30 seconds dialing a number on the rotary dial phone, to simply tapping an icon to reach our loved ones (on our mobile phones) in less than 2 seconds.
The personal computer evolution marks another impactful shift both in the variety of functions it offers us today, and in its shape and form. I remember my auntie, back in 1980’s, typing away her university assignments on a very old word processor. The old pin printer was her best friend, as she handed in, proudly, her nicely printed essays... Oh boy what a journey we’ve made with the PC and its software, making us look damn good when we hand in a deliverable, whether we choose the form of a presentation, spread-sheet, document, email, video etc. The options seem endless.
Photography is another area that has seen a great transformation – we all carry a camera today on our smartphones – something that was far from imagination 20 years ago. Although I have thousands of digital photos, I do enjoy printing the best ones and handing out gifts to family and friends, or just hanging them around my house and office.
But while keeping in mind the power of 'digital', I wanted to write this post to remind myself the beauty and greatness of the 'physical', analog, old-fashioned. Looking around me, I identify several of these 'habits' that are gradually disappearing from our lives, and I’m on a mission – a comeback!
Clocks & watches –
Most of us carry our mobile phone these days, using it as our watch too, hence practically eliminating the need of an arm-band watch. The bed-side alarm clock is also being pushed aside, as we use our mobiles for that purpose.
We became so functional we forgot how beautiful and aesthetic these items can be. Did we forget about interior design? About our home décor? About our wearable accessories?
So I decided to bring back to my life these items: my arm-band watch is an old, vintage gold omega watch I inherited from my grandfather. I wear it as a fashion accessory, but not every day as it has to match my outfit!
I have 2 more clocks I’ve revived: one on the kitchen wall – so my son can learn how to read the analog clock, and better understand the 12 hours cycle concept (remember? 1 comes after 12 in the clock! Not an easy concept for kids). This clock also blends well with my kitchen colors and home décor – adding aesthetics to our lives.
The second clock is my bed-side alarm clock. I still use my mobile as an alarm clock, but the bedside clock is such an adorable item, adding more character to my bedroom.
Yes, you read right. Letters. Actual pieces of paper with letters and words written on them in pencil or pen.
Try recalling – when was the last time you’ve received an actual letter from a loved one, a relative or a friend (not from your credit card supplier or an electricity bill)?
Mmm…. Right, hard to remember. Like most of us.
Why bother writing letters when we can email, call, SMS or WhatsApp each other?
Simply because it warms the heart to receive a letter. It’s personal. In the writer’s own hand-writing, with his signature, with the selection of paper and pen. It sends along a feeling, on top of the actual written content of the letter. It is the old-style “metadata” – the extra bits around the words, the extra bit that creates a whole experience while reading.
Last year I went to my letter box and to my surprise a letter was waiting for me. My dear friend, who lives overseas, had heard my beloved grandfather passed away, and as she was on a train ride, thinking of me, she decided to write me a letter instead of WhatsApping me. It was 8 pages long. Written in pencil and pen. It captured a moment, a genuine expression of sympathy as she was sharing with me in length her thoughts and emotions at that specific moment. It was precious. I was so deeply moved by the gesture of receiving a letter as I felt someone has REALLY thought of me, and it warmed my heart. We all want and need to feel special sometimes.
I embraced this simple yet wonderful gesture, with a mission to pay it forward. I then wrote to the wife and family of an acquaintance who became very ill, letting them know I’m praying for his health and sending them empowering words. They wrote back to say they were “really touched by this attention”.
We can make a difference in one’s world by simply reaching out with a letter. Hand written letter. Now think about the next person you’re going to touch with a letter. Get to work.
Books and newspapers -
Almost any newspaper/magazine or book you wish to read exists in a digital form/edition today. We embrace this growing trend (I’m a big fan), but some virtues disappear when we do.
I went to the beach recently, determined to take some reading with me. Several books were craving my attention on my iPad’s kindle app, but I knew there’s no chance I’d risk my beloved iPad with the sand. I turned to the weekend newspapers. It was fun reading them on the beach, and they are much more sand-tolerant than the iPad.
Going back to “physical” – my bookshelf at home has more character with some 'real' books and magazines on it…
So folks, in the end of the day, depending on the use case, the 'physical' must not disappear from our lives. It has an important role: adding aesthetics, functionality, emotion and connectedness to our digitally shaped lives. Go ahead, get physical..!
ed needs a bicycle/Foter/CC BY-NC-SA
Chris JL/Foter/CC BY-NC-ND
Maggie Osterberg/Foter/CC BY-NC-SA