Thursday, 16 February 2012

What's The Future Of Paper?

                 A rather sad thought came to mind the other day while listening to a debate on the radio. The topic? Will we still being using paper in 10-20 years?
I never thought the idea would come so soon!  To think that we might not write but only type to communicate or read from a screen instead of off the pages of some sort of paper.  Would it really be so bad? I suppose the words carry the ideas so does it matter where we write or read them?

I love the convenience of all this recent technology but to write something yourself like a diary or a letter means so much more to me because it requires effort and holds a part of me. Your writing style is your own. No one else has it exactly and it displays a part of your personality.  I'm left handed which is surprisingly not so easy to spot when I write on paper because I have learnt to write without dragging my hand over the ink thus avoiding the easiest give-away of a left-hander: smudged writing!  It has a forward slant and I've been told it's quite masculine in style.  I've always preferred black ink to blue and to this day I can't write straight without the help of a lined sheet of paper. I often make spelling mistakes and usually have 2 or 3 copies of a letter written out before I have eliminated all errors, a thing I don't even have to think about when I'm typing as the spell-check does all the work for me.  A great help but I find myself being lazy and always misspelling the same words which I wouldn't do if I wrote them out because I would have given it more thought before I stained my clean white piece of paper with permanent ink.

So whats the problem? Typing can be cold and impersonal.  Albeit faster I wonder what the rush is all about.  Where's the fire?  We always seem to want to do things faster but it doesn't always make it better.  One of the best things you can give someone is your time!  Being able to send messages within seconds, are we sacrifising a bit of depth? The ability to flesh out and communicate ideas and emotions instead of one-liners?  I'm sure if people wrote more, their conversation skills would no doubt improve too but that's a different sudject perhaps for another day.

My husband said I should email and put my pictures up on a site for my Grandmother to check them out whenever she wanted but I want my Nana to have something to hold, take with her, hang up and know that I took some time in putting a letter and pictures together just for her because it means something to me, she means something to me and all this technology is very far removed from her.
It's not just because she is elderly, I enjoy making the effort for anyone I care about.  Who doesn't like to receive a hand written letter? My husband and I wrote letters to each other when we were dating and we wrote emails too.  I kept all the letters and printed out all my favourite emails but I much prefer the letters!

People can't even be bothered to write their own cards anymore!  I always get blank cards because the pre written ones feel cheap. As if I couldn't even be bothered to come up with my own words.  Who cares if your words don't sound as eloquent as the card's? The point is the effort isn't it?  If you don't write it yourself it may as well come from anyone and nobody!

To write by it's very definition is to form words on a surface such as paper using a pencil or a pen.  A definition which is being practiced literally less and less.  I wonder if my own children will write me letters when they grow up if they are ever far away.  Writing seems to have become somewhat of a novelty.  On holiday we email family and friends but for fun we write postcards.  Some online magazines are now going to print because apparently people love the retroness of the printed word.  I didn't realise it's was so passé that it now has a 'vintage' charm!

One of my favourite things is getting the Sunday Times every weekend.  My husband and I spend the afternoon lazily immersed in the various sections while the kids play with their toys.  The pleasure of it doesn't just come from the words themselves but the lovely rustle and crinkling sounds of the paper.  The folding of it's pages and it's texture between your fingers.  Personal because you have your very own copy but shared because whoever has a copy is reading the same words that you are, somehow connecting you.  It's not the same reading off a screen.  Even when you have downloaded something that you've payed for, there is something about holding an item in your hands that gives you that feeling of complete ownership.  Behind that plasma, glass, plastic whatever that screen is made of, it's always a little distant.  I love how a book shows off it's well read pages with swollen edges, dog-eared corners and bent spine.  The satisfaction of seeing the thicker side of the book slowly shifting from my right hand to the left and a slight sadness when I arrive at the last few pages.  All nearly subconscious thoughts and instinctive actions that enrich the whole reading experience.  Not quite the same with a click on a screen.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not on some sort of crusade against technology.  Mankind has survived moving on from scrolls, quills, fountain pens and even the typewriter so this too shall pass but I hope it never dies completely.  The power of communication through words goes on, if anything it reaches more people than ever and yet I can't help but think a beautiful skill, an art, is being quietly set aside.  Will we still be using paper in 10-20 years? I hope so. I know I will.


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