Underneath all our wireless streaming, hands-free technology, we're still people.
Life has been called the human experience.
Events and emotions – what we see, what we do, what we feel, what we touch – are what make us who we are. And as much as technology has enriched our lives, we are not composed of electrons nor can our emotions be measured in megabytes or pixels. We feel with our hearts.
Things on paper, whether it be a favorite book, a handmade birthday card or even our first ever pay check, can deliver some of the most definitive experiences in our lives. The fact they are printed lets us enjoy them for as long as we want to, even if it’s just to look at them one day and remember where we were back when.
Paper is considered by some as more “human” because it elicits emotion. What’s more meaningful, getting yet another email or receiving a handwritten note in the mail? And who doesn’t love getting the latest catalog from their favorite store labeled with their own name as a valued customer? Studies have proven that it’s not just fun, this kind of tailored attention pays off for retailers. According to the United States Postal Service, those who receive a printed catalog from a retailer are twice as likely to buy online from that retailer as consumers who do not receive the catalog.1 Part of that, if you ask the experts, is the appeal of a tactile experience. Paper in this case clearly doesn’t compromise or exclude the online experience, but rather enhances it.
Even in the fast-paced world of business, many people prefer print over digital, especially if the document is a springboard for discussion or when a deep understanding of the subject matter is required. Among senior executives, 59% trust printed magazines, journals or newspapers over online sources for information, and 60% turn to print when they want in-depth analysis, according to a 2007 survey by Doremus and the Financial Times.2 What’s more, the majority of U.S., adults feel that printed media is just easier to read than something onscreen.3 This has been attributed to everything from screen glare to the inconvenience of scrolling down longer online texts.
Paper can also help us calm the sense of anxiety that can result from the steady flow of information coming at us from every direction, every day. By printing out certain emails and filing away key paperwork, you are reasserting control over data overload and choosing what’s important and what isn’t.
And how about the granddaddy of all organizational management tools – the “to do” list? Despite the advent of online to do list managers like Remember The Milk, Ta-da Lists and Zoho Primer, many of us still prefer to take pen in hand to write down tasks we want to accomplish. There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get from checking off those jobs one-by-one. As web worker Anne Zelenka noted “clicking a checkbox with your mouse doesn’t compare.”4
There are more reasons that paper and print help define the human experience than can fit on this page (as you can see elsewhere on this site). But fundamentally, it can be boiled down to the simple fact that we’re not computers, we’re not numbers, we have feelings. And a world where the only way we can send and receive information is on a screen, well, it just wouldn’t feel right.
1 Catalogs Influence Online Spending (information accessed through paid subscription-contact http://www.highbeam.com)
2 Senior Executives Prefer Print
3 People Prefer It. Businesses Depend On It. What’s Next for Print Media?
4 Five Reasons to Use a Paper To Do List, Anne Zelenka