If there is anything I never thought technology would improve, it is human materialism, hoarding and overall the abundance of "stuff."
Yeah, you'd be right in pointing out that people still want that new phone, that new game system, that new TV and whatnot. That is why I kind of suspected that technology would only make things worse.
I can very quickly point out a simple example that will bring this to light. Blu-rays, DVDs and DVD players are already going extinct and there is no physical replacement on the horizon. That's because we consume media like films and television digitally now.
When is the last time you purchased a DVD instead of just streaming that movie you always wanted to see? How many people do you know who used to constantly buy movies to add to their collections, but either their shelves have stopped expanding or have gone away entirely?
This is true for basically all forms of media. These things we used to buy feverishly and line up on shelves are becoming less and less necessary. There are online magazines, e-books, you can download or stream games, and when was the last time you bought music on a disk?
If you ever go into Best Buy or any other electronics or game store it's a stark reminder of the times that used to be. We didn't grow up with a lot of money, but when we got to go pick out games or movies, it was magical because we only got to do it so often. There was row after row of boxes with enticing art.
Other people were just as enticed, and if you had the time the last thing you were going to do was make a fast choice without looking in marvel at as many titles as your eyes could consume. This feeling was even more intense when it came to video rental because you knew a special family night was coming up.
I still remember the video rental nooks at Godfreys and the Corner Store, and I honestly miss that experience a lot.
I realized this while looking at the sparse collection of DVDs at Best Buy recently. But in a way, going away from a physical media is good. We are getting rid of "stuff" and clutter and even materialism. I am probably getting old early, because I don't totally like it. I'm stuck in my ways and there is something about having a physical copy in my hands that does have advantage over the digital kind.
Physical copies are accessible. If your internet goes out, you still have them.
If PlayStation decides to stop hosting its old consoles and takes its games down, you can still play the games on your shelf.
If a company or publisher decides to remove something from their servers for any reason, you might be out of luck if you only bought it digitally. If you have a physical copy, you still have it.
In a way, consuming media in a digital format reminds me of having cable growing up. Probably once a year "The Burbs" with Tom Hanks would come on TV. We didn't know when it would be, and I don't remember ever catching the beginning because it was always found only by flipping through the channels.
If they ever stopped airing it, we might have forgotten it existed entirely. We didn't have a VHS copy so we were at the networks' mercy when it came to "The Burbs," and those stations definitely had no qualms about censoring shows like this if they had a swear word or two.
Yes, streaming services have offerings far above that of most of the channels we had growing up, and we have access, digitally, to an unprecedented flood of films, books, games and television shows. But with all of the platforms that are streaming we are still at the mercy of the providers if we don't also have physical copies of their offerings.
I don't consider myself paranoid, but let's face it, streaming services can't provide access to every movie all the time and they don't want to either. That means some of the shows you love will always be inaccessible to stream or download digitally.
This goes for books, games and television as well. As a matter of fact, if the streaming service has reason to, it might even remove, avoid or censor some titles. We already have services that are brand-specific. We already have game companies that have pulled titles from their digital stores because of copyright disputes.
As we go deeper and deeper into digital, we are getting closer to a time when we might not be able to have a physical, unedited version for when the internet goes out or for when our streaming services just don't carry it.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that some of my reticence is based on the fact that I've always been a bit too materialistic. I do tend toward collecting, and a future that is so different from how I imagined it is uncomfortable.
I am, after all, very much a creature of habit, incredibly nostalgic and sentimental. Materialism, after all, is not a good characteristic, so maybe, if we're lucky, the ephemeral nature of these digital formats may be training younger generations to be less materialistic in the long run.
But I still miss the feeling of browsing, and I think I always will.
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.