Do We Really Need Paper?

Do We Really Need Paper?

Everything is digital nowadays, and now with a free Google account, one can acquire cloud storage more than what the greatest scientists could not afford in the 90s. I think it is safe to say that fast Internet connection is more or less ubiquitous on the UIUC campus, not to mention mobile data. Paper is more and more becoming irrelevant. I have recently made the transition from printing academic literature to purchasing a tablet. No more stacks of half-read literature, no more paying for printing, all dandy.

Even the most classical professors’ post pdfs online rather than give handouts, and most homework is created in our laptops and sent through compass2g, our friend, and foe. My advisor, probably the best advisor I can ever hope for (just in case she reads this, but she truly is), seems to be against the paper. Rightfully so, since creating paper is a waste when there an alternative. I am almost completely persuaded, at least in academia, that I should never use paper but ‘Github’ this and ‘Google-drive’ that. Honestly, I do feel pretty cool doing all these new age technology feats, and I started to form an odd sense of superiority over the ‘paper-using-folk’. Though I boast about the hip-ness of going paperless, deep inside, I still like paper.

Something was written or drawn on paper is an object that one can hold and store, and maybe, lose. One can write the next Pulitzer-prize novel on paper, but can simply lose it. I think that is where the beauty lies. It is a possession and can be completely unsecured depending on how one handles it. It is not something permanent (or at least it seems) like a file one can simply copy and paste wherever on the Internet. It feels like it needs attention and care.

For example, compare emails and handwritten letters. Emails, I can simply go type something and press send, maybe add a cute cat picture or two, by copying and pasting from Google images. There is very little effort nor care put into it. However, to write a sincere letter, I must pick out a nice paper to write on, a nice enough pen, and must think of what and how to write prior to actually writing it. It is quite taxing to write a letter. But I think it holds more value, and that letter itself is so fragile that even a minor incident, the wind, coffee spill, or a mistakenly wrote zipcode can ruin it.

My point is not that we should all write letters, but that by not writing letters, or writing, one of the most human things, as a serious task, we have lost something along the way. I am a strong believer that convenience always has its costs, and I think this is a good example of one. Write something, whether it be an awkward love letter to someone for valentine, or about how much you appreciate your parents. Bathe in the process of melting your feelings to a work of directed art, a letter.

Jin Whan Bae/Intern