It’s clunky, it’s expensive, and it’s hard to find. So why are so many turning to analog in the digital age? Cell phones have given us the ability to follow anyone, capture any image, and listen to any music that’s available. But despite this, more and more people are looking elsewhere for resources that the smartphone so successfully provides. Take music, for example. Musicians such as Tyler the Creator and Ariana Grande now offer their albums on vinyl, right next to CDs and MP3 downloads.
Data collected by the Nielson Company reveals that vinyl album sales have nearly tripled since 2009, and are expected to keep climbing. Record stores, formerly considered an endangered species, are slowly thriving again. In 2018, the modern polaroid has found its way into 12 million hands.
Recently, while I was listening to music with a friend, she showed me her Bluetooth-equipped record player in action, carefully slipping an album older than the both of us (the edges were soft and a previous owner has signed her name on the back) onto the turntable. I was always vehemently anti-record, as paying $150 for a record player plus the cost of the music itself (which can be up to $40 per album) seemed ridiculous and the epitome of living to be seen. But as the sound of the Beatles filled the room, I had to admit it sounded fuller than simply playing it from Spotify on a laptop. That was only deepened when someone else connected their phone to the record player and hit play. The tinny sound seemed ten times worse when juxtaposed with the smooth sound of a record. Still – the record player took up half her desk, and she had to hold the album very carefully in fear of getting dust on it.
“It’s a little pricey, but it’s worth it,” senior Maddie Roe said. “Your phone definitely gives higher quality photos, but that’s kinda the fun of a Polaroid. You don’t really know what you’re gonna get when you take the picture. It’s all about getting that in-the-moment shot”
She showed me her photo album, filled with polaroids from road trips, Halloween parties and quiet nights. It starts to make sense – in the age of the instant-but-untouchable internet, things become less special. People begin to crave the feeling of something authentic, something tactile and rare. Ebooks, for example, were expected to slowly replace paperbacks- until their sales declined as people went back to the real thing.
“Our future-focused, technology-obsessed world seems to be heading down a bad path. People are turning to ancestral practices for a sense of enduring longevity, and comfort,” author Michelle Tea said about the revived interest in tarot, crystals, and all things occult. “Tarot offers moments of deep connections during a time when connection is ubiquitous, but rarely delves beneath the surface.”
This renewed interest in analog can best be described as a reaction against the age of the internet. Gen Z-ers (anybody born after 2000) hold nicknames such as the iGeneration, the internet natives, or the tech gen. We’re the first to not know a world without the internet in all of human history. We are Gen Z, an experiment on what happens if technology is as normal to you as a cup of coffee. That is of course, monumental. And yet, over half of us are seeking relief from it. In a study conducted by Hill Holiday, 41% said that social media has made them feel sad, anxious, or depressed. 64% of us are taking a break from it, and 34% have logged out permanently.
I myself logged out of all of my accounts last year, and am seriously considering getting a walkman just so I don’t have to take my phone to school. Two weeks working at a camp with no phone was enough to learn to hate a five-ounce piece of metal I had to carry around all the time. Gen Z is the biggest buyer of all things analog, which includes vinyl, cassette tapes, paper books, and record players. Despite how seemingly surface level it looks, it goes deeper than simply striving for a curated aesthetic.
As online news source Odyssey says, “With the popularity of social media and editing for the flawless post, instant film brings back the idea of taking pictures as keepsakes…Polaroids inspire users to not care about if they were smiling perfect or if their hair looks like a mess.”