Why I print stuff

Let me, even as a justification to my inner geek, explain to you why I print things from the internet for myself. Especially things I want to memorize.

I am anti-bureaucratic and believe, that as many things as possible should be handled digitally. Although, you could categorize me as a “green” person, this reasoning is not grounded on environmental friendliness. In fact, when you think about it, a sheet of paper, along with a tiny amount of ink, should, given its lifetime and power-independency, cause far less environmental pollution than the coal plant that ultimately powers my computer’s screen backlight for displaying the same data.

Instead, the reason I print is a simple one: things printed on paper are physical. You can touch them. This may sound esoteric, but let me tell you what happens when I try to learn something using my computer. Because the computer is so perfect, in terms of data-management, data doesn’t bother me unless I explicitly use it. Stuff I would like to memorize might vanish in some folder. I could put it on the virtual desktop, but even there, it’s just some icon. On my computer screen. When I don’t focus the screen (or the virtual desktop), it’s out of sight and doesn’t bother me because the computer itself is clean and I can’t tell that there’s anything that needs to be taken care of.

Even for me, as a geek who always has a digital display device within reach, this perfection of digital data ironically decreases its utility for certain tasks. A digital thing I can take care of at any time. Or never.

Yes, I could use virtual sticky notes to cover my screen, but they’d hinder my work and my weaker self could, in a brief moment it feels unobserved by the eager self that wants to do the task, send the sticky note into digital oblivion.

Yes, being a geek, I could ask Siri to remind me to read the document. But it’s not the same. When I close the reminder, it won’t bother me again. I could ask siri to reming me every couple of minutes, which, even if it would work (siri tells me “I can’t remind you that frequently. my apologies”), wouldn’t be very helpful either because it’s just annoying and I can still silence her every time.

A sheet of paper, however, is the perfect combination of subtlety and annoyance. The perfect way to remind you to do something, because getting rid of it (and also its creation, somehow) is a physical act. If i’d try to dispose the document without studying its contents, I would have to feel bad about it for seconds, all the way to the paper bin.

As I work on something else while the document is still waiting to be taken care of, I can focus on my work. Despite the printed document’s presence, I don’t see it in my field of view and it doesn’t periodically report its status of importance in an acoustic way either. It’s just there. I subconsciously feel that it eyes me, silently reproaching me for not dedicating my time to it.

There is also something to the pysical location that makes it easier to connect the information contained. “at the top left of the sheet on the corner of my desk” is easier to remember than “on line 300 in this text file or even a page on a PDF, because the screen content will change.

This is why I print things (sometimes).

Me being busy ill a post-it saying "duty me" is floating above my head, watching me with big eyes.


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