The New Yorker magazine and I have a routine. Whenever I have both the time and the $5.95 in my wallet to spare for a copy, I enter a mental commitment to read the entire issue, because anything less would be somewhat of an underachievement.
I dutifully work through 10-page articles about foreign aid agencies, get lost in short stories that I forget are actually fictitious, read about uptown gallery openings that I will never be cool enough to go to, and smile at the subtle yet smug humor of its famous cartoons.
My affinity for The New Yorker is indicative of a particular attitude of mine. The belief that yes, technology is great, but no, I don’t need any more of it in my life. Often, it makes me feel like somewhat of a luddite, putting me at odds with my more tech-savvy peers.
But there’s something about my New Yorker exercise that brings me a kind of satisfaction that cannot be replicated in any other format. Turning the text-laden pages with the knowledge that I really should be reading for a class, wiping the crumbs off the page as I eat my burned toast, and, most of all, reveling in the unmistakable pleasure of taking the time to read something that’s actually in print.
Yes, I use Gmail and Facebook, and I’ve gained an unquantifiable amount of knowledge from the Google search box. I am aware of the incredible impact that the Internet has had on my social developmental and educational life, as well as my status as what my father calls a “digital native.” But no, I don’t like it when my friends are searching something on their iPhone while we’re having a conversation, I don’t want to know every thought that exits in your head via Twitter, and I do think it’s sad that an over-reliance on spell-check has diminished my peers’ ability to spell words like “conscientious” and “maintenance.”
It’s not surprising that our generation has developed this dependency on technology, as it echoes the consumer culture we grew up in.This idea — that more is more, bigger is better and instant gratification trumps delayed satisfaction — reigns supreme. But with this ever-increasing stream of global data, we’re simultaneously losing some things: a familiarity and appreciation for simpler pleasures, an awareness of local knowledge, and perhaps even a portion of our common sense.
It’s not that there isn’t room for both the print and digital media in the modern world. The quality of a piece of journalism remains intact regardless of the format. But technology’s offer of unlimited options and immediate access to any publication or information source doesn’t supersede the value of reading something in print. There is a tactile and time-tested value attached to this activity that technology simply can’t replace.
When was the last time you used intuition and a good sense of direction to find your way around or talked to a living, breathing librarian while researching a paper? How about taking the time to write a note to send to a friend, or making yourself unreachable for an entire day? These activities may seem blasé in a world of e-mails, tweets and apps, but they’re all things that have been done by human beings long before there was a place known as Silicon Valley.
Technological progress is good. I am not advocating a life of Internet abstinence or a reliance on the Dewey Decimal System for all of our informational needs. But the benefits we accrue from these technologies are not unlimited. There is a point at which one more iPhone app that calculates the number of steps until your next latte is not making your life better — but rather, making you duller. How about looking at a real map, or reading a real book, or buying a real newspaper in which you might actually stumble upon a whimsical or thought-provoking piece of local journalism that can’t be found on the Huffington Post?
For now, I will stand in a crowd of a few. And when I see that smug person sitting next to me and my New Yorker, who appears unable to complete a full article because his or her iPad/Kindle/fill-in-the-blank device provides too many options, I will smile to myself and do a quiet, though revolutionary act: turn the page.