Holding a worn, torn, faded photograph in your hand can often evoke more feelings and stir our emotional memories far more deeply than scrolling through thousands of crystal-clear images on a digital device.
Why is that? What is it about a physical photograph that affords it more emotional currency than a digital one? Maybe it is the act of holding it, of touching it, that makes the difference. No matter what the resolution of your modern day camera, in many ways a physical photograph will always have the edge over a digital image.
It’s the reason why so many people still get their digital photos printed; it provides us with the means to hold them, to connect with them in a way that is more than just visual. They take up physical space and, on so many levels, we always return to the physical…
There is something wonderful about physical touch, and it goes way beyond a photograph – consider the skin on skin contact that is encouraged as soon as new babies are born. Our sense of touch, our innate need to physically interact with the world around us is tremendous.
But what happens as so many of our ‘possessions’ become less and less physical? We increasingly consume our music, books and films in digital formats and through streaming services. We’ve access to virtually unlimited amounts of entertainment and knowledge, yet there may be a danger that such easy access can lead to the content becoming devalued.
I own films, books and music that sit in a virtual cloud, but as it doesn’t occupy space in my real world, I sometimes forget it exists. I find myself returning to the physical world, browsing through possessions housed on shelves, in drawers and cupboards far more often than I browse through the things I own online. Is that because I can’t physically touch them?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to reduce the clutter, but there is still something wonderful about pulling a book off a shelf and leafing through the pages… finding a stack of CDs or vinyl in the bottom of a cupboard… discovering an old mix-tape.
This isn’t a nostalgic rant about the “good old times” before the digital era. Perhaps it’s more than that. Read an old letter or postcard, hold it in your hands. I’m pretty sure it will evoke more of an emotional response than reading an old email (even if they were sent around the same time).
In the same way, face to face contact will always mean more than a video call, no matter how good the connection.
We are physical beings and our very existence can only be experienced through our senses, with touch being one of the most important senses we have.
As we become more and more digitised, as we upload and download more of our lives to social media and consume things that don’t physically exist, maybe there is an increased value to be found in taking the time to send the letter, buy the CD, read the book or print the photograph.
FaceTime and Snapchat are amazing tools but can’t replace the act of sitting down face to face and chatting over a coffee. Don’t underestimate the value of making physical (rather than virtual) connections with friends, colleagues or clients.
Ultimately, we will always return to the physical because we are physical.
Image credit: Roman Kraft | stocksnap.io