It’s undeniable; the modern world’s advance in technology is brilliant, and, particularly for my generation, it’s almost impossible to trace back to a day of our young lives without some form of digital screen playing a role. However, with a recent survey finding that over half of children aged eight to sixteen prefer to read off screens than from physical print, the prospect of paper becoming a dated invention seems to be more likely than not.
Perhaps at first thought such a potential future that doesn’t seem too sinister, I mean, its just paper, right? We’re missing the point –take a moment to think about it; we are living in a digital era – the number of internet users worldwide has multiplied by over six timesthe amount it was fourteen years ago, E-reader sales are only accelerating upwards, whilst physical books are becoming ancient artefacts, and to receive a friendly letter or postcard through the letter-box appears unheard of. The wall where we used to hang the annual family calendar and planner is now blank because 51% of us rely on our smartphones to tell us when it’s a distant aunt’s birthday.
The treasured family photo albums my parents have (which may come in handy one day in embarrassing my future-self in front of a boyfriend) are quickly being replaced by online photo albums on social media websites; 78% of us now capture photo-worthy moments digitally, meaning that these will likely remain digitally preserved. Whilst I love looking through my Mum’s old childhood photos to get a glimpse into my family history, I often doubt that my future children discovering my ‘vintage’ Instagram page will evoke the same nostalgic effect.
Being a bookworm, the possibility that perhaps one day printed books will cease to exist all together is one that terrifies me. Whilst I do own an E-reader myself, and will hastily agree that there are many benefits of owning one, I’m not quite sure that it’s so easy to lose yourself in a book in the same way that you can when you’re holding the physical article in your hands. Each time you turn a page; you’re only delving further into the ‘world’ of the book. Does a screen have the same charm? If paper becomes a useless tool to the author and publisher, will libraries just become museums?
There are so many digital distractions around us, it seems that paper is being pushed aside, like an old toy that has lost its appeal. Research found that last year the average consumer spent around seven hours a day on various media devices, including almost two hours a day on a computer. With over a third of the UK population logging onto Facebook every day, maybe people just don’t have the time for paper anymore. Perhaps a bright screen, full of endless resources and methods of procrastination seems to be more appealing than picking up a dull old book. Besides, what does a lousy sheet of paper have that technology doesn’t? Surely the conversion to the electronic world would benefit the environment?
Actually, whilst many of us have led ourselves to believe that our digital inventions are a somewhat modern form of a renewable source, we’re choosing to ignore the alarming environmental repercussions that technology is leaving behind. The mere manufacture of our smartphones creates an ever-growing carbon footprint, and the energy needed to power these mechanisms is substantial. What’s worse, whilst the majority of us are educated about recycling paper, the awareness of recycling discarded gadgets is significantly smaller, with a yearly global increase of 40 million tons of digital waste per year.
We seem to have become so caught up in an endless string of solutions and services from our digital devices that we’ve forgotten the moments when paper is appreciated. Think about your last birthday – did a message on your Facebook ‘wall’ from a random guy you met at a party mean more to you than a handwritten card from your sister? Also, I’d feel much more secure signing and receiving official documents in physical paper form. Finally, lovers take note; it’s almost guaranteed that your significant other would appreciate the odd written love note far more than the infamous, emoji-flooded ‘good-night text.’
Perhaps paper is a little more useful than we’re giving it credit for. To me, paper is one of the few physical things that can really connect human beings through its eternal and sentimental value, which is why I don’t see paper as just an outdated addition, but rather a meaningful necessity.