Digital, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.

With my car, I can open the door and put the key in, and in just mere moments my car notifies me that I’m connected to its user interface (I understand that I’m not special and im sure your car does it too). A song typically starts playing based on where I left off last, but more often than not it starts with the song that comes first alphabetically in my phone’s library. “Accident Prone,” by Jawbreaker. Fantastic stuff really, but after a while I got tired of its first few melancholic seconds and began to disregard the band when I saw their name pop up all together. I got tired of the technological miracle of music instantly hitting my ears, but still didn’t want to browse through my library to pick the mood-appropriate tune.

I think that’s what digital has done to us. The instant gratification has spoiled us. Spoiled in the sense of the act of waiting has been rendered to the point where people are disgusted by the notion of waiting itself. No longer is anything special, there are no lines to wait in for a first or limited edition novel, and there sure as hell isn’t any waiting to pick out a song in your car. Vinyl is booming in sales, sure, but that isn’t because of the younger generation. Why get up and wait in a line with people when you could just wake up and hit download in private? I admit, I do the same from time to time, I like downloading an album from the warmth and comfort from my bed that I ordered from Amazon, a bed in which I ordered from the warmth and comfort from my old bed, hilariously enough. The future is now.

I understand why everything is becoming digital… it’s completely for convenience and efficiency. In my bag when I travel I carry my laptop, a notebook, the current book or books that I’m reading, and maybe even my iPod if I’m feeling nostalgic (nostalgia for an iPod is comical and almost just plain sad, but that iPod video is classic). Why don’t I just upgrade to an iPad and Kindle combo purely out of convenience? Have you smelled the pages of a book as you flipped them through your fingers? I’m sure smelling the face of an iPad would be a tad alarming to those next to you on an airplane, but I could fit everything on that device. I could fit several books, and thousands of songs that I would never get old of. But that’s not who I am, I like tactile engagement. I know I’m not alone, there are dozens of us!

But, here I sit at a bar, my face lit by the dull amber glow of my iPhone on Night Shift. My thumbs tapping away at the glass putting this piece in pixels. A guy with an English degree who refuses to buy digital copies of novels but won’t write too much by hand because my broken-several-times-over wrist will start to hurt after long bouts of writing. There’s something off about that.

I bet I’m thinking of this because as of this past week I will be on the road again for work for the better part of two months. Where I work, we love the idea of analog. The idea of tactile engagement whether that be through flipping a page, placing a vinyl on a turntable, or with what we do (no comment on that in order to avoid cross-promotion, but I’m sure you could figure it out with a little research, and I will most likely let it slip on this site here soon enough). By-hand processes are becoming a thing of the past, which is a huge bummer.

Here’s a funny thing that happened during an event the other day. A cop who was nearby stopped at the event just to check out what were were all about. He was quite possibly the oldest gun-toting cop I had ever seen. I feel like he would be the worst ally to have in a sketchy situation, because, well, he struggled down the stairs (poor guy) and he didn’t hear very well. Here’s a bit of possible dialogue I figured could have taken place between us based off of his hearing predicament:

Me: “I have a gun.”

Him: “I do enjoy peppermint gum, thanks.”

But, him stopping by was one of the most sincere things i’ve seen. He told me about all of the vinyl that he owned, but didn’t have a turntable anymore. He wasn’t into digital downloads because it wasn’t as personal, he liked holding onto the album. And all while he was telling me these things, he stared forward into the jukebox we have, eyes locked on the mechanisms as the arm chose the next CD to play from, the vibrant colors causing his glasses to shimmer a bit.

Record Store Day is coming up in a bit over a month, keep that in mind the next time you’re about to hit the download button on one of the many Future albums that seem to be dropping all too often. Just wait for April 22nd and pick up the physical copy.

~Ian.

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