One of the most predictable things in life is that changes and trends tend to move drastically in one direction only to be followed by a re-calibration. It’s part of our nature to become infatuated by something new and different. But after the full effects are consumed and digested, things tend to settle back into some rough equilibrium.
Of course this isn’t true in all cases. Once the automobile came onto the scene, horse-drawn transportation became a decidedly niche activity and stayed that way. But not all social trends or new technological developments are as obviously superior as the car.
It’s remarkable to think that the internet as we know it and use it today has really only become widespread within the past twenty years or so. The world has profoundly changed as a result and it’s been a positive change in almost all respects.
High technology in all its forms has pushed paper aside in many ways and for many reasons; some having to do with convenience, some with cost, some with (often faulty) environmental concerns. But inevitably, the “digestion” period has begun and people are starting to process these changes, seeing the negatives as well as the positives and acting accordingly.
A few recent examples illustrate this:
Item - In a June 22nd article in the Boston Globe - "Millennial's strange love affair with greeting cards" Janelle Nanos writes about how young adults are seeing the superior personal connection of a written note and card versus a "throwaway" message on Facebook or Snapcha and are buying them in significant quantities. The demand is mostly fulfilled through small, boutique card companies that market online. Improved printing technology and lower upfront costs have reduced the barrier to entry in the market.
Item – In a July 10th essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled "I'm Banning Laptops from My Classroom" , Rutgers law school professor Stuart Green makes his case against the use of computers in his class. His reason quite simply is that many students are distracted and doing other things rather than listening and engaging in the lecture. He seems this as an endemic problem in society as a whole especially among Millennials – a state of perpetual distraction. Starting this fall, students in Professor Green’s class will have to go back to writing notes on paper.
Item – An article in Fortune magazine from April 16th, "Air Dryers Disperse Viruses" summarizes a recent study conducted by the Journal of Applied Microbiology which showed that hand dryers, in particular the Dyson model where you stick your hands in, spread germs wildly around the restroom as opposed to using a paper towel which confines the germs primarily to the trash. Now, I’ve read where the methodology of this study might have exaggerated the results. I haven’t read the study. But the conclusions seems to pass the common sense test at least to me. (Personally, I’ve always preferred the paper towel to the air dryer).
Item – In an Info Trends blog dated June 7th, entitled "Millennials Won't Respond to Printed Catalogs and Direct Mail, Right? WRONG!" data is presented to demonstrate the headline’s thesis. I have to say that even I was surprised at the findings which showed a very high percentage of the 18-34 age group studied finding catalogs useful and opening direct mail pieces they receive. The article makes the point that after a period of decline, both catalogs and direct mail are experiencing a resurgence because they get results. Sound familiar?
So are we seeing a return to paper and printing on paper and envelopes as a general counter-trend? I’ve presented some anecdotes which don’t conclusively prove the point but I believe they are indicative of the type of re-evaluation I alluded to earlier. In my experience with Elite Envelope and Graphics, I can attest to the fact that custom made card packages for invitations and other purposes are becoming more and more popular. Some of our fastest-growing customers are in that market.
I was going through some old photos the other day and mixed in with them were some letters I had received from my mother while in college. My Mom passed away in 2002. What a joy it was to read those letters written in her impeccable penmanship and expressing herself in the erudite yet personal manner she was known for. Print on paper can connect us to our past (and present) in a way that the ephemeral digital form of communication cannot. Unless of course, you print them out and save them!