Monica Guzman wrote a thought-provoking article in the Sunday Seattle Times, linked above, that I read in the print-edition of the local newspaper today. I enjoy reading the newspaper each morning; my husband reads the same newspaper in the evening – both times providing opportunities for daily ritualistic enjoyment. Ms. Guzman describes these occasions as “a world where paper is sweet, sweet, sanctuary.”
I’m certainly a technological user. I own a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet (Kindle), and a smartphone. Because I’ve grown accustomed to the ease with which all of these devices are used, I have been guilty of the same snobbishness (read superiority) experienced by Ms. Guzman. I observe someone reading a bound paper book in a coffee shop, or on an airplane, and I think to myself, “Welcome to the 21st century people; how lame can you be?” But like Ms. Guzman, I’m also jealous.
If we compare paper to digital as media, one is smart, and the other is dumb. If we compare them as devices, “(P)aper’s purpose is simple. You look at it or you put something on it.” Digital media, however, has as many “purposes as infinite as the operations they perform.” But is that always a great thing? Take into consideration the columnist’s statement:
Next to the capabilities of digital, paper is dumb. But next to the tranquility of paper, digital is an assault. Alive with possibilities but full of demands. Always connected but never done. (Emphasis mine) Triggers, enablers, provocateurs.
When I finish reading a print-edition newspaper, I don’t leave it on my nightstand just in case updates come in during the night that I might need to read. Ditto with a hand-written letter I receive from a friend – she put down her thoughts on paper, I’ve read it and might even save it, but the letter is finite – unlike e-mails which leap out at us with each vibrating notification.
In days past, when I finished reading a particularly riveting paperback novel, I would close the back cover, hug the book to my chest, and glory in the connection that said book created in me. I might even mourn that I had finished the book. Give me more! When I finish reading a book on my Kindle Fire HDX, regardless of how fabulous a read, there’s no device hugging going on. Instead I’m instantly downloading another title to be at the ready for my next respite of reading time. One down, millions to go.
Convenient, yes, but I must say that before I entered the Kindle generation, I thoroughly enjoyed requesting books from my local King County library, knowing that it might be a few weeks before the title finally became available to me. How exciting it was, however, when I received an electronic notification that the book was now available for pick-up. I might even drop everything, stop what I was doing, and make an extra car trip just to grab hold of the much-anticipated title.
What an extraordinary pleasure that was.
I don’t bemoan my technological gadgets – they do make my life easier and I am certainly more tuned in to the latest updates in the news, good or bad. But I don’t want paper to go away. I cancelled my Newsweek print magazine prescription when they went to an all digital format in 2012. I don’t want to sit at my computer or gaze into my tablet to read a periodical. (Hear that Seattle Times? Keep printing!) But listen to this. Earlier this month Newsweek brought back their print edition. I sincerely hope this is an indication that print periodicals aren’t dead. I share the same sentiment provided by Ms. Guzman towards the end of her article:
Not long ago I was convinced paper was outdone. Outperformed. Beaten. It wasn’t a question of whether paper would die, but when. Now, I hope it sticks around long enough for us to know why we would want it to.
What about you: paper or digital?
Monica Guzman, Seattle Times writer and blogger, is going off the technical grid for a week – thus the article attached above wherein she analyzes our habits and impulses when it comes to us feeling the need to be instantaneously on top of matters. She’s not disconnecting from all technologies – she intends to watch television and might use a real camera – but she’s staying away from “the ones that know me.”
Ah, respite – what a delightful concept. Lots of us Baby Boomers equate respite to receiving some sort of relief from our caregiving tasks. For example, we might be taking care of a parent, sibling, partner, or spouse and we look for every opportunity for a reprieve from our caregiving chores – or at least we should be. Please see my article Caregiver: put on your oxygen mask first.
Respite, however, also relates to resisting the compulsion to send someone a Happy Birthday greeting by sending an e-mail, or going to the honoree’s Facebook page, or sending a Tweet on the person’s Twitter feed – and instead, deciding to call that person for a conversation that lasts longer than it takes to type a 140 character greeting. OMG, MIK? (Oh my god, am I kidding?)
No – I’m serious. I could make it harder on you – and myself – by suggesting that we send a birthday card that would require us to purchase, write, post, and drop the card through the slot of a postal box. I think that would be a great idea, mind you, but that’s not what I’m proposing.
Rejoice in the fact that Facebook reminded you of that person’s birthday. (I know that you received sufficient notice not to miss that person’s birthday because truth be told – that’s how I remember many of my acquaintances’ birthdays each year.) But please resist the urge to send an instantaneous electronic greeting. Think of yourself – I know you can – and think of what it feels like to receive fun mail, such as a birthday card, or simply a “there’s no reason for this card” card. You liked that feeling – didn’t you? Now I want you to also think about how it feels when someone calls you to personally wish you happiness – just you and the person that called you. That’s a one-on-one attention connection.
Drop a note, make a call, but leave the 140 characters for some other important message, like:
I had a glazed doughnut and a cup of coffee for breakfast then washed my hair and can’t do a thing with it! Isn’t that just the worst thing ever?
Go ahead and count – there’s 140 characters there.