By Ciara Sweatman
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, it’s the same thing. A bunch of 18, 19, and 20 somethings (myself, included) walk into class after picking up the current issue of The New York Times, sit down, lean back, and then open our paper arms-width apart. The paper feels rough in my hands, and I stare closely at the pictures, grainy and clear all at once. I read the headlines and choose an article that interests me. Before I know it, I’ve read the whole page, top to bottom. The smell of the paper fills the room, and I can hear the rustling and crinkling as people turn page to page.
We are engaged. We are interacting. We are enjoying it.
This is my Mass Communication class. We are required to read the Times every day for a semester long project. However, something tells me that the effects of this project will last longer than that.
What does it mean to read the paper? Why is it so important? Can’t we just hop online and scroll on through? After all, it’s interactive on the web version. There are videos and hyperlinks and I can comment and share an article that interests me on Facebook. Not to mention I can have YouTube or Pandora up in another tab and listen to music while I search for what “pops” out at me.
This is all wonderful, but I’ve learned something through this act of sitting down and actually reading a physical copy of the paper. Not only does it cause me to slow down and take my time, free of distraction; it’s relaxing, as well. There are no bright and flashy advertisements, no “heated” debate at the bottom of the article with name-calling and pointless banter, and I have to stop the other three things I’m doing and just. read. my. paper.
It speaks to a way of life. It’s what our grandparents and parents used to do, and probably still do. They put on a pot of coffee as the sun begins to rise and thumb through what’s happening in the community, the state, and the world before they get ready for the day.
I want to do that, too. I want to slow it down. I want to give one thing my undivided attention, and absorb it fully. I don’t want to lose the physical bond of things any more than our generation already has.
For example, is there anything like getting a handwritten letter? Knowing that someone spent time to carefully craft something (with their best handwriting), penned their feelings and thoughts to you—you, personally—then signed it at the bottom, found a stamp or two, folded it up nice and neat, and walked it out to the mail box. I love a nice email, but the virtual act is nothing compared to the physical.
Let’s not lose the richness of communication for the sake of convenience. Let’s continue to sit down, recline, and read our papers. It’s a privilege, a beautiful privilege that we often take for granted.
But you know what? Reading this was a start.