Go analog: 15 ways to embrace digital minimalism

Tips & tricks
8 mins
Analog and lo-fi objects.

Getting bogged down by technology? You’re not the only one. Digital fatigue is a growing phenomenon with many partaking in cyber sabbaticals known as digital detoxes. This can range from taking a short break from social media to re-assessing when you use your devices and limiting what apps you have on your devices.

Before we dive into this list that celebrates low-tech living, let’s clear a few things up. We understand that analog and digital are not opposites. Simply put, the main way analog and digital signals differ is how they’re transmitted.

With this article however, we are absolutely using “analog” and “digital” as metaphors for old vs. new, human vs. computer, or even mechanical vs. digital. We’re really playing fast and loose with nomenclature here.

We can also think of the goal as digital minimalism, a concept—espoused by a book by Cal Newport—of limiting or re-examining technology’s influence in our daily lives. Of course, it’s not just enjoyable to go analog, but minimizing your digital footprint is also a way to increase your personal privacy and lessen tracking by large corporations.

Read more: Can you completely delete yourself from the internet?

With that out of the way, let’s dive into everyday ways to get off digital tech!

Alarm clock

Instead of: Your phone alarm 

Short of getting yourself a rooster to crow at dawn, using a traditional analog alarm clock is a tried and true method to get you up at the right time every day. Using a real alarm clock has the benefit of letting you leave your phone outside of your sleep vicinity. You’ll likely sleep better by avoiding the light, pings, and unsettling notifications emanating from your phone.

Analog watch

Instead of: Your smartwatch or phone

It’s in the name, people! While the batteries won’t last as long as their digital counterparts, analog watches do have the advantage of looking cooler. Hey, that might be a matter of personal opinion but you know it’s true. You could even get an automatic or wind-up watch, if you’re fancy, and never have to worry about power. As analog watches are mechanical, they also have the added advantage of being able to work after an EMP blast. 

Physical cash

Instead of: Credit cards or payment apps

We get it, carrying physical cash can be cumbersome, especially when dealing with coins. There’s nothing worse than having a pocket full of change weighing you down. There are benefits to having cold hard cash on hand though. These include: Increased privacy, freedom from fees or additional charges associated with credit purchases, and it’s essentially universally accepted (although that is changing in some countries).

Also, you couldn’t do something like this with digital cash:

Go ahead, try it with a digital currency. You can’t.


Read more: What happens to your privacy if you go completely cashless?


Instead of: Your smartphone

Sure, you could start using a landline at home again, but even switching from a smartphone back to a feature phone, colloquially referred to as a dumbphone, is a major move to reduce your digital footprint. While smartphones are invaluable tools, especially because they’ve replaced many devices and functions—e.g., calculators, cameras, flashlights, compasses—they’ve also brought a host of distractions along with them. The biggest downside of course is technological dependency, and specifically smartphone addiction.

This is why a dumbphone is a great alternative or supplementary communication device. And you know what’s great? They’ve been making a comeback in recent years, which means it won’t be hard for you to get your hands on one. Feature phones will let you make calls, have a longer lasting battery, maybe let you use a flashlight, and most importantly: Let you play Snake.

Which leads us to…

Make a call

Instead of: Texting

With your new (old?) dumbphone in tow, give your friends a call—you know, for an actual voice conversation instead of emojis and text-speak. A corded phone with a chunky handset that you can cradle on your shoulder will give you major nostalgia. While you’re at it, send out handwritten letters instead of emails.

Also, give your parents a call. Just do it.

Film camera

Instead of: Your phone camera

Get out your Polaroid and bring the “insta” part back to Instagram (a portmanteau of “instant camera” and “telegram”). Relive the thrill of taking lofi “selfies” of yesteryear and make yourself a ’90s-inspired collage. Otherwise, you can always use your mechanical SLR and get your pictures developed at a photo lab.

Heck, why stop there? Forget taking videos for Facebook or Instagram, and fire up your old DV, MiniDV, or VHS camera and capture memories the way you used to.

Ok, we’re on a roll now. Have a Super 8 laying around? Turns out you can still buy film for it, but you’ll have to research the best outlet for that in your city.

Arts and crafts

Instead of: Photoshop and other art apps

Don’t stop at a Polaroid collage, get creative with anything from your run-of-the-mill arts and crafts all the way up to artisanal handicrafts. This can include painting, pottery sketching, sewing, woodcraft, scale modeling, origami, decoupage…

Don’t know where to begin? Start planning out potential ideas with a physical mood board (the original Pinterest). All you need is a foam board, some post-it notes and paper, pens, pins, glue, and clippings from newspapers, magazines, and catalogs.  


Instead of: Netflix

Running on a theme, why not bring back the “tube” part of YouTube and break out that old CRT (cathode-ray tube) TV unit and VHS player you’ve got gathering dust in the basement and rewatch your favorite movies. You can pretend it’s Friday night in the late ’90s and you’ve just come back from your latest haul from Blockbuster.

Vinyl records

Instead of: Spotify

Give your Spotify or Pandora playlists a rest and give your vinyl records a spin. Vinyl records, turntables, and record players have made a resurgence in recent years and it’s a great time to get back into the scene. Plus, vinyl is known for sounding warmer.

Why stop there though? If you still have your old Walkman and/or boombox lying about, grab your old cassettes and blast ‘em!

Read more: How to delete your Spotify account permanently

Play an instrument

Instead of: Making electronic music

Maybe you played the recorder in elementary school, maybe you played the clarinet in high school, or maybe you tried your hand at the guitar in college. Whichever one it is, what better time than a digital detox than to pick up your instrument again? YouTube has no shortage of free music lessons that should get you right back into the groove of if.

Board games

Instead of: Online games

As one of the oldest forms of human social interaction, games have been a staple of every culture throughout history. Considering that video games have only been around some 50 odd years or so, traditional non-digital games have preceded them by at least several thousand years. In other words, there’s no shortage of analog games for you to play during a digital detox.

Traditional games include categories like: Card games, board games, puzzles, stacking games, and trivia games. Looking to dive deeper down this rabbit hole? Why not explore tabletop RPGs; campaigns can last from several hours, to several months, and in some cases span for years.

If you’re partial to video games, go grab your old 8-bit or 16-bit consoles. Conversely, companies like Analogue Inc. specialize in developing consoles that allow you to play your old game cartridges from third or fourth generation consoles like the NES, Super NES, Master System, Genesis (known as the Master System outside of the U.S.), Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Gear, Lynx, and Neo Geo Pocket Color. 


Instead of: E-books or tablets

You know that list of books that you keep on meaning to read? Well, now is the time to jump right in! There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a new book and like vinyl, physical books have a warmth and charm to them that e-books and e-readers just don’t. 

Pen and paper

Instead of: Blogging

Fiction, prose, screenwriting, journaling, bullet journaling, or even just your weekly grocery list. Put pen to paper and practice the lost art of handwriting. Even if you don’t have anything in mind, free writing is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. It’s also just a relaxing way to clear your mind.

Put yourself out there

Remember what it was like to strike up a conversation with someone before Omegle? Remember dating people before Tinder? No? Join the endless generations before you who had to make and maintain human contact sans apps. 

Reading: How to stay safe and private on dating apps: 9 dos and don’ts


Ah yes, good old fashioned exercise. Get your daily dose of vitamin D, increase your aerobic capacity, and reduce the risk of disease. Use an analog pedometer to count your steps, organize your diet, and plan and track your progress manually with a pen and notebook. 

Get out there and train the old fashioned way, like Rocky Balboa did when he was training to go up against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. While Drago used all the latest high-tech equipment, all Rocky needed was to be outside in the snow and working out with manual farming equipment. 

Guess who won?

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