Being a college student in the age of Canvas modules, 11:59 pm deadlines, and digital coursework means we must live our lives on the computer. Unfortunately, there is no way around it. A certain amount of our time each day must be spent staring at a screen, even though the overwhelming advice is to lessen our daily screen time. To add to that, the allure of the phone screen is too strong. I always find myself hopping from my laptop to my phone to my iPad to my phone to my laptop to my phone to my… ok you get it. We all tend to do that. It’s so hard to pull ourselves away from super entertaining apps like Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube. I also don’t believe these kinds of apps should be vilified either. They provide us with incredible content, connect us with our friends no matter the distance, and give us a wealth of free information. And yet, a healthy balance remains difficult to achieve.
When I find myself in one of these technology binges for too long, the days blur together and I lose touch with the real world around me. The only thing I have found that relieves the cycle is spending time doing something a little more analog than digital. Recently, I have found a new thing to soothe that disconnected feeling I have on the computer all day. I’ve been rediscovering a nostalgic low-tech device from my childhood.
Over the summer, I started playing around with my old family digital camera. It’s a tiny, dinged-up, gray Canon Digital Elph from approximately 2006. It still had a 1 GB memory card inside. My dad told me that little chip was pretty expensive when he first bought it. Since we all have phones now with built-in cameras, our little Canon was sitting on the shelf, collecting dust. I decided to give it a little tender loving care and see if it still worked. I popped out the chunky battery with a satisfying click. After a long search through the basement, I found the charger and plugged in the battery. After a few hours, the power indicator light flickered from red to green.
After loading in the battery and cleaning up the dusty lens, I powered the little camera on. I spent hours walking around the house, taking photos of random things like books, my cats, and plants to test out all the settings. My favorite was the macro setting. I would walk around outside and find tiny bugs or flowers and take detailed photos. Even though this camera is extremely dated by today’s standards, the photos it takes are of decent quality in good lighting. In low light, it has a grainy quality that is charming if sometimes frustrating, and the flash washes out the subject and casts shadows everywhere else. Suddenly it made a lot of sense why our old family photos looked the way they did. I’ve had so much fun taking photos with this old camera and figuring out all its little quirks again after forgetting about it for so many years.
All throughout the summer and now into the semester, any time I found myself stuck on my phone for too long, I would push myself to get up and take some pictures outside. It forced me to look at everything around me with a fresh eye and focus on the present. While I could have just taken photos with my phone, my digital camera inspired me in a way that my phone camera couldn’t. It has the irresistible spark of childhood nostalgia, but it is also built only to take pictures, nothing else. It has satisfying buttons to press and a screen that only displays photos. Its low-tech simplicity is what makes it such a great antidote to our temptingly overpowered devices. To anyone struggling to stop the cycle of technological overconsumption, consider reconnecting with some older technology to intentionally slow down.