• 72°

Confessions of a digital convert

By: Shane Starr

Every time I drive by the LaGrange College clock tower on Vernon, I think about how analog is inevitably retreating in favor of digital technology.  I’ve always thought that I preferred analog – clocks that have two hands, automobiles dashboards with pointing needles. I am also aware that expressing this belief out loud invites speculation that I must have had a pet Stegosaurus when I was a kid.

I’m not a crusty curmudgeon who mumbles about all things being better in the old days; I just don’t think we thoroughly understand all of the privacy and security implications when every gory detail of our lives has been converted into ones and zeroes and stored on a silicon chip. With one exception, I do try to be honest about technology (that exception is when I click that little button that says “I have read and agree to these terms and conditions”). 

Part of the problem may be that I’ve just never been an early adopter of digital. I was certain that listening to music on scratched-up vinyl was better than CDs (which, by the way, I predicted were just a fad). I thought sending pictures out to be printed on a piece of special paper was “real photography.” I felt that new information should come from newspapers or the six o’clock news. I resisted games that were played on a television and didn’t require a folded board and a pair of dice.

I’m thinking along these lines because we recently visited Yellowstone National Park (which is stunningly beautiful, but that’s a different article). For most of our stay, cellular phone service of any kind was unavailable. At first, I shrugged, and had a happy “Thank God” analog reaction. No need to check for mail, messages, or missed calls; the world could manage without me for a few days. We woke up the first morning and discussed what to pack for the day’s activities. I whipped out my weather app, but realized I couldn’t get connected.

My wife asked what time the restaurant opened for breakfast, but I couldn’t access the web site to tell her. When we needed to navigate to our starting point, our maps app didn’t function, and oddly enough, none of the paper maps the park staff had given us displayed a blinking blue light to show us our current position. We couldn’t share our daily adventures with our family. By the end of our stay, I had to admit to myself that the addiction problems I had with my phone rivaled an alcoholic chain-smoking heroin user at a gambler’s anonymous convention. 

How did this happen? When did a regular analog guy like me become a cooperative slave to digital technology? Gradually I realized I was asking the wrong questions. The issue wasn’t “addicted to technology” the issue was “attracted to ease”.  We stare at our devices because they make life’s tasks easier, whether we are shopping online, consulting with a physician, or video-calling a grandchild. 

My stay at Yellowstone was a clear reminder that the good old days had some good old limitations. Digital is taking over because it has better solutions to problems.

I guess I’m not really an analog guy after all.