Life in the Digital Age: Why Print?
Tangible memories in a 21st-century world
How many people reading this have a computer or phone? Okay, all of you, good. How many of you have pictures from the past day, the past month, the past year, stored on this device? I'd be willing to bet all of you on that one, too. But when you get a new computer or phone, what happens to those photos? Do they get stored on a micro-SD card or USB stick and thrown in a drawer? Transferred to the new phone? Put on the new computer? And what happens if that phone gets lost, or your computer crashes, or that SD card gets broken? Simply put: You're outta luck.
42% of people don't print their photos anymore - at all. In a time where photos are being taken constantly, that's a crazy number! I don't know many people who don't bring out their camera/phone and snap away at even the littlest of occasions - going out to eat, hanging out with good friends, playing with their kids, seeing family once a month - but how many of those pictures will soon be lost forever?
Even if you plan on painstakingly transferring all your photos from one device to another as you upgrade, the file format most are stored in is lossy. Have you ever looked at a photo on your computer that was taken 6 or 7 years ago and thought, "I swear this photo wasn't as grainy/blurry as it looks now!" and shrugged it off to technology upgrades? Your gut instinct is right - even in digital form, or sometimes, ESPECIALLY in digital form, your photos are subject to degradation over time.
So what are you to do? Print. Print, print, print. It's so sad for me to think of the entire generation, since the inception of camera phones forward, having so few tangible photos. Sometimes it's just nice to hold a memory in your hands. A non-electronic memory. Take the time to print - it only costs a few cents per photo these days! For the special memories, pay the extra few bucks and get high-quality prints.
If you'll let me get personal for a moment, I'd like to share one of my biggest woes. My mother got into technology super early. She had a Sony Mavica camera as soon as it came out in 1997 - it was 0.3 MP and stored ~15 photos on a floppy disk. A FLOPPY DISK. Do you know any computer that still comes with a floppy disk drive? Me either. She eventually upgraded to the newer Mavica with the Mini CD instead of the floppy - but in a house with kids, moving across the country, and absentmindedness, they, too, disappeared or got scratched into uselessness. So when my mother passed away in 2005, the visual memories of her last several years were nowhere to be found. The memories of my childhood, my sister's childhood, were few and far between - some posted online here or there, 5 or 10 found in a random folder on her computer before it kicked the bucket, etc. When I found a stockpile (maybe 20-30 images) almost a decade later, they had degraded so far that printing would look ridiculous, pixelated and blurry. Thank goodness I printed anyway - today, I have no idea where most of the digital files are. The prints are stored away in a box, similar to being stored away on a computer, out of sight... but I know they'll be there as long as I keep the box in a safe place. The box's hard drive won't go out on me, a virus won't render it useless, and it won't get scratched or broken.
This brings me to my next point. That camera my mom bought, that state of the art, hundreds of dollars camera, stored on floppy disks. Floppy disks are more or less obsolete now. Young people who are coming into adulthood now probably have never even seen one. CD-Rs are going the same way. In search of an ever-thinner laptop, many don't come with CD drives anymore, and a bulk of the newer generation doesn't even feel the need for a computer anymore when tablets & phones can do whatever they need. USB drives, even, are being slowly pushed out of the way for the slimmer, faster, USB-C ports. But when you print on high-quality, archival paper, metal, or canvas... that image is one that will last through the ages. In 100 years, your great grandchildren can look back and go "Wow, look at this 2D photo of my great grandparents! It's so flat! They're not even moving! Wicked cool, bro!" or whatever the kids those days will be saying. The point it, it'll still be around for them to see.
Don't let your generation be the beginning of a big blank - print your pictures. Someone's going to want to see them one day. Maybe it'll be your parents, when they're too old to want to fool with computers. Maybe it'll be you, when your digital devices break/become obsolete/get lost. Maybe it'll be your significant other, when the computers have eaten all your photos. Maybe it'll be your great grandchild, as aforementioned. Maybe it'll be students 200 years down the line studying your impact on history. You never know. But images are worth printing. There's nothing that can compare to holding a memory in your hands.