News « Papers »… No More

When technology devours papers and most companies “go green”, what will the fate of newspapers be? When society is going against you to rip the word “paper” out of your name how will you fight back? Who even reads newspapers in this era?

I have recently started interning at AnNahar, one of the best newspapers in Lebanon, one that was able to defy all odds and stand tall after every hardship or change that was thrown at it.

Going through the doors of that immense building, the first thing I imagined was going to strike me was the smell of ink, yet I was surprised to smell a flowery-kind-of-odor.

As I was going in the elevator up to the sixth floor, I imagined hearing the loud noises of HUGE printers; yet silence was reigning.

I stepped out, only to find myself facing what I thought was a glass soundproof door, muting all the chaos of loud hectic journalists running all around the newsroom, rushing to cover every single story, but silence had stricken me once more.

Keyboard tapping was all that was there. Everyone was minding their own business, was communicating though e-mails and was occasionally asking a work-related question out loud. Journalists were calling multiple sources over the phone all day long to check the veracity of the news instead of waiting long hours for an official statement.

Most of the work done in the news room is social media-related, publishing local and world-wide articles on their website about a variety of topics that would satisfy any curious mind. Their success is no longer only measured by the number of newspaper sales, but by the number of readers, likes, shares, and subscribers.

I was in complete shock and my imagination was a bit disappointed. I had an idea about newspapers built up in my mind, the way we used to see it in old movies, big rooms filled with immense printers and journalists in chaos shouting everywhere. I thought going there everything will somehow shift into black and white, even my vision, but instead a cup of tea and some soft music filling the office were soothing the hectic journalists.

Whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, social media has become the new newspaper. The first and easiest go-to source for the latest news, trends and gossips.

A blank WhatsApp screen and what it means

Is there anything more dreaded than opening a frequently used app – yes, a virtual application – only to find it wiped clean, a white screen? Why are we so attached to things that have no real effect or concrete presence in our daily lives? Why is their disappearance so upsetting, its effect so real?

 

White. Blank. Nothingness. While this might sound too dramatic, it barely scratches the surface in describing the intensity of what I felt when I opened my WhatsApp one fine April morning to find all my chats gone – all the memories I had amassed over a long period of time, a matter of years, gone, just like that.

The knot in my stomach wouldn’t go away. The more I thought about what I had lost, the more my mood dampened. Feeling ridiculous, I sought solace in my friends, telling them what had just happened in hopes of being understood. And to my utter surprise, one of their responses put in very concrete terms the very abstract feelings that were bothering me: you didn’t lose your chats, you lost your memories. And it hit me just how much our generation relies on keeping records of every step taken, every meal eaten, every country visited. Be it in photos or extensive chats, most communication (and in that sense, memory-keeping!) nowadays occurs online, and losing the trace of those “concrete” memories leaves a gaping hole that can no longer be filled: those days are gone, and with them now the proof that they ever occurred. They can no longer be revisited in full; they are confined to the treacherous workings of human memory that too often can color past occurrences in very subjective ways.

This incident got me thinking: how attached are we, this technological, hyper-connected generation, to the virtual world? How much of our lives actually occurs online? How much of our memories are stored online? How does that affect us, be it in a positive or negative manner, in our daily lives?

Even after contemplation and soul-searching, the answer escapes me. I do not know whether or not such record keeping is good for us, keeping us rooted to the reality of things, or whether the reality of things lies in the real moment in which they happened. And were it not for the virtual world, I would not even be able to share these ideas with you as I am right now – food for thought.

That’s it for now – but what about you, what’s your two cents? Who knows, maybe if we all pool our ideas, we’ll come to some sort of a conclusion!