For my birthday two years ago I asked for a record player. My roommate at boarding school had had one for my junior and senior year and I’d begun to develop a small collection. I don’t like vinyl because I want to be a pretentious hipstery jerk. Instead, I like it because it’s one of the few aspects of my life in which I can’t customize my experience and filter out the things I do and don’t want.
In every aspect of my digital life, I can handpick things I want. I choose the feeds in which I’m interested, respond only to texts and emails I want to answer, watch only shows and videos that directly align interests, and generally only read blog posts about sports, technology, or the classes I’m in. I’m not exposed to new ideas because I have so much opportunity for choice.
Of course, I pick the vinyls I buy and listen to because they’re by artists I like, but I don’t pick and choose which songs I want to hear like on iTunes or Spotify. I simply press start and listen all the way through, paying careful attention to the context of each track within the album. This manner of listening means I’m obviously exposed to tracks I wouldn’t normally listen to, and it forces new musical ideas on me, which provides inspiration, and also offers a rare lesson in patience in what’s normally an instant-gratification world. Then, when my favorite songs come on, it’s all the more satisfying and having invested the time to explore the whole album.