Newspapers and cell phones

Category: Blog

Two spectra of people roam about: 1) the type to summon a cellphone in sit-down company of a companion, and 2) the type to refrain and stay attune to the moment. Type 1 instinctively seeks to be distracted or entertained by any means. Type 2 enjoys the raw energy of the setting, be it a moment of continued silence and what Type 1 might consider awkwardness.

This isn’t a binary classification but weighted. A person might lean heavier towards one behavior yet make conscientious exceptions.

I have a nagging case of allergies for a strong Type 1. If I sit down for a meal with a companion who summons a phone without substantial precedent (which there usually is not), I feel a strong urge to flee. That energy one calls the ‘vibe’ bursts instantly upon the manifestation of a phone. I love solitary meals as they are, seeking no company unless it be one of genuine human interchange, with all the silences. And all the awkwardnesses.

A Type 1 friend of mine recently suggested that a cellphone replaced the newspaper. That is to say, a cellphone facilitates the sort of social distraction that a newspaper traditionally delivered.

I let the thought proliferate for a time. Ultimately, I found content in the more definitive relationship of the two: a cellphone facilitates a substantially greater means of distraction than a newspaper. It delivers the same, plus an outrageous galore of services.

When I think of a newspaper, I imagine the isolated scenery of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, one of my all-time favorite paintings. Now, there isn’t a newspaper to be observed in that piece. It demonstrates merely an empty nighttime street, the minimalist interior of a diner, a couple behind the bar engaged in conversation with the barista, and the back of one more solitary figure (who’s identity shall forever remain a mystery). I always imagined the solitary figure to read a folded newspaper.

It goes to say that I always considered a newspaper a solitary means of distraction, but rarely a social one. One may read the newspaper on a Central Park bench, during the commute on a San Francisco trolley, at a repose of a bohemian café at the Village, under the refuge of a 5th Avenue bar (of trembling incandescent lights and dripped with clouds of cigarette smoke), and in the frenzy of the commuter-hour stroll.

One may peruse the newspaper for the cutting-edge top news, to satiate blood-thirsty sports rivalries, search the classifieds, obituaries, jobs, used car and apartment listings, conduct commerce, as well as seek financial expertise, staples of cultural assortment, romance, satirical comics, Pulitzer-prize winning book reviews, television programming, life insurance, brain development puzzles, travel expert advice, astronomical readings, language mastery, health suggestions and fine-dining recommendations.

One may also realize any of the above with any third-generation-old cracked-display mobile phone. Plus use the self-facing camera to apply makeup, watch art cinema with Italian subtitles, run a travel video blog from the Ecuadorian jungle, capture glamorous selfies from the Angkor Wat ruins, read the entire second volume of Plutarch’s Lives, and hold a video chat with your grandmother in Tbilisi.

Hold your excitement. The newspaper too bears much additional utility. It overloads as a place mat for raw fish, shelled walnuts and skewers, floor covering for bricolage, packing paper for economically-considerate gift bestowal, toilet paper for Slavic forestry, note taking parchment for on-the-go journalists, paper-folding for urban revival art projects, as well as corporal punishment apparatus, private investigation firm wall paper, a ‘whack-job’ firearm concealer, a Halloween costume, furniture stabilizer, steam-therapy inhaler, and back support for gambling setbacks.

Away with your status-defining cellphone. Let’s give the newspaper the credit it deserves. Long live analog.

Questions, comments? Connect.