Bus rides are usually a boring mind numbing experience in where I can’t seem to avoid belligerent drug addicts and arrogant teenagers who won’t move from the front of the bus for an elderly woman. So in order to pass the time I dive so deep into my phone that I occasionally miss my stop. This brief absence from the reality around me is a pleasant time that I cherish.
Quite often I find myself reading a futile article on my new favorite conspiracy theory, or simply gazing out the window listening to music with countless thoughts running through my mind usually to no avail. Then something peculiar happens. My early morning bus ride is now host to two additional interesting riders.
The first is a young blonde woman, dressed in an attire that suggests she works at a bank or prominent business downtown. She takes a seat directly next to me as it is one of the few remaining seats. Just as I am clicking a link to an article that will subdue my thoughts for the next 15 minutes she takes out a book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil Degrasse-Tyson to be exact. Good taste if you ask me. Suddenly my interest is peaked by the vast difference in how two individuals who are both millennials are choosing to take in information and/or past the time in a productive way.
A few brief moments later an elderly gentleman walks onto the bus with his face buried into his cell phone. From the second he swipes his Pittsburgh Port Authority card he gives his undivided attention to his smart phone. Sitting a few rows ahead of me makes it rather difficult to see what has his attention, but his body language suggests it’s quite intriguing. A quick up and down look at his attire leads me to infer that he too is some sort of businessman, banker or in some other akin line of work. Perhaps he was reading an important memo or replying to an email from the governor. Or maybe he was on a final level of Candy Crush or replying to a Facebook message from a high school crush.
Whether or not any of my observations or thoughts are correct are rather irrelevant, however. What’s interesting about this situation is how technology’s influence and role in our lives is perceived. Opinions from millennials on technology are well known as being very positive. Our elders, however, are usually more in favor of getting their information and entertainment from print such as a book, magazine, or newspaper. Encountering these two individuals from different generations who were partaking in forms of entertainment from their opposing generations was interesting. It’s often that we hear rhetoric of our elders that in order to achieve true intellectualism one must be an avid reader.
But I’ve begun to wonder, how true is that? Obviously in order to be considered as such one must be verbose and able to read, but are books essential to that? With the recent creation of kindles, smartphones, and the like do we truly need print? Of course if someone is engaging in a book on kindle they are still reading but that does not change the fact that most are opting for this option instead. Not only are kindles growing more popular but we have the option of audiobooks now. So instead of reading we have the option of another person with a voice that can put you to sleep reading to us. Think of it as bedtime stories for adults.
Now I ask myself what is too be taken from this encounter I had? Many of the perceptions we see in media is of an elderly man who has no clue about the specifics of technology. More often than that it is made to seem as though millennials have no interest anything that doesn’t take a charge. Whether or not these speculations are true does not change the fact that technology can be immensely beneficial. Perception here is the real issue. Of course an unhealthy amount of time spent on your phone can be counter-productive but does that qualify it for demonization? Too often we hear “put your phone down and pick up a book!” But our phones hold books and quite frankly they hold the encyclopedia of the Gods: the internet.
For good old fashioned brain stimulation and an enhancing of your creativity, pick up a book. But the idea that a phone can not provide the same benefits is preposterous. Books are here to stay for the time being. They are not being phased out and readers are not a dying species. Technology may create a reluctance in new readers to indulge in a book, but readers are still here. Keep tweeting and searching and posting, but don’t forget about print.