OK, it's been a decade or two of adjusting to vanishing newspapers, dying magazines, and the steady ant-like forward march of e-books. And I like to think I haven't been too big a baby about it.
I still get my newspaper delivered to the house like the old days, sure. But I read the newspaper online too, during the day sometimes. I can't get with the Kindle, but I've downloaded a book or to to my phone. I'm trying, OK?
And I try not to bitch about it too much, mostly because I think revolution can be a really good thing. I write so many more emails to my friends than I ever did letters, and I am grateful for that.
Still, I hadn't realized—until yesterday—what we were really losing, until I was sitting on the couch with Chestnut, reading my alumni magazine of all things, and I started to read aloud to her from the personal ads.
Remember the personal ads? And don't start with the whole OK Cupid/Tindr/Craigslist, because THE WHOLE POINT (to me, anyway) is that with the olde tyme personals they were right there in the paper! Or the Pennysaver! Or The New York Review of Books! (the best and saddest ones). You didn't have to go searching them out. And they weren't just people looking for each other either (though those are great), but also crazy job postings and bizarre research requests and, and, and…everything! And these ads—you just came upon while reading about other things.
That's what I miss. I know it's easier now to find things, but it's harder to stumble across them. You have to go down long dark internet halls, when things used to just turn up on random pages of the paper you were reading. I miss that. I miss the hodge-podge of it, the ridiculous inappropriate disjointedness, the mix you'd come up with.
I feel a certain randomness is gone, and oh how I miss it!
HOWEVER. May I recommend you start your teens, particularly the soft-hearted ones, on the personal ads in the New York Review of Books, your alumni magazine, or any other PG venue? If Chestnut is any guide, they'll immediately begin trying to match the letter writers up with each other, and it will rocket you back to everything tender and painful about being 13, and the two of you can hang out together and it will be excellent.
2 thoughts on “What We Lost When We Lost Print—Uncensored!”
Last week I picked up a 1952 issue of the Nation at a yard sale, on a whim. Guess what: they had personals! There actually was only one in that issue, but it sounded like it came straight out of last week’s NYRB.
Yes! I can easily imagine this. Sort of wistful, it seems to me, personals from 1952. I wonder if they found anyone?