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In a World of Fake Things, Give Me Something Real

Besides misinformation filling our airwaves, there are fake things filling our world nowadays.

The best flameless candle - Chicago Tribune

I was walking through a Costco today and I saw a box with ten “candles” for sale for $24.99 only they weren’t really candles, they were battery-operated flameless candles supposed to look like real candles. They come complete with a wireless remote control.

Facebook changed its name to Meta because it wants to be able to deliver a world with virtual experiences to people in the future. Not real experiences, just ones that look like them, that are convincing enough to fool us, our senses. Or ones that change art into “meta” art.

We used to get greeting cards in the mail from grandma at birthdays, little sentiments we could place on the mantle or shelf in our house to remind us of those who are thinking of us. Now, we get emails or texts, not real birthday cards, just the wish in a convenient needs-no-effort to deliver way.

We would share small portraits and snapshots with our friends going all the way back to the Cabinet Cards of the 19th century that we could put on our shelves, to surround ourselves with their images in our homes. But not anymore. Now we get photos sent to us from friends on phones, digital pictures to see once in a glance and forget since no one is printing them. They just vanish.

We’ve evolved to a society of digital convenience but we’ve lost something tangible.

  • The smell of the candle wax and the special light that is candlelight.
  • Real travel to the Grand Canyon or Manhattan, with dirt underfoot or dirty streets, not some software developer’s version of what and where we should see.
  • The physical opening of a mailed envelope sent by our loved one, with the birthday wish enclosed (and sometimes a $10 bill).
  • The portraits we could live with to look at as we pass by our desk or dresser, our friends and family’s faces right there with us in our home.

There is a slow food movement because people decided they don’t want to live on microwaved food. Sure, it is quicker and very convenient, but not better–quick and convenient aren’t the best reasons to choose something. People were willing to shop at farmers markets, slow down and make their meals from scratch with real ingredients–fresh vegetables, herbs and spices and follow recipes that take time.

Vinyl records are selling at twice the clip of a year ago with no signs of slowing down. Young people are turning to the quality of sound as well as the simple choice of playing one album, not every album in the world which is available on Spotify or Apple Music.

There is a slow film movement because young people who grew up with digital photography are finding this “new” form, film photography, that they can explore and create with. Film is different, it has its own properties. The cameras are amazingly robust–still working after 50+ years–and also quite simple. There is a resurgence in people wanting to make actual photographs, not just digital screen representations that can’t be easily accessed on a regular basis.

Typewriter sales are also up in the last two years as more and more writers turn to a device that creates text without a computer, without power, that allows thoughts to be recorded without technology, just simple keys striking ink to paper.

I’ve often said the best days are those when I forget my phone. Give me a camera and some film, a full tank of gas in my car, and I have all I need. No one able to interrupt me. No cord tethering me to email and texts and the internet.

I wish I could get a working beeper. I really do. That way, I’d still be in contact in the event of an emergency, but I wouldn’t have to be tied to a smart phone dinging and buzzing and vibrating and vying for my attention all day long.

It’s maddening, I tell you.

David Sax has a wonderful book, The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter, that goes into why many people are turning to analog things–notebooks, records, and stationery have become cool again.

I think it’s natural to want real things.

I’ll clean up the candle wax if it means I get to experience real candlelight.

I will cook a meal with fresh ingredients, if I get to taste real locally-grown vegetables and herbs. I’m not in that big of a hurry.

I make real photographs and gift them to people because they matter–my friends and the memories we make together.

I don’t choose to be nostalgic for times gone past just because that’s the way it was. I choose to embrace that which is real and still readily available. Just because some new candlelight technology is created, that doesn’t make flame candles obsolete.

The convenient alternative is one that i can choose not to take.

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