Unplugged: The Resilience of Traditional Media

With a recent poll concluding that the majority of Americans would prefer to return to pre-internet days, are we just seeing a nostalgic yearning for simpler times or is there something deeper and more complex going on?

The poll1 revealed that the desire to return to an unplugged era is surprisingly strong among the younger generation and is not strikingly different from those who are old enough to remember not having smartphones and easy internet access. While 77% of Americans aged 35 to 54 said they would prefer a return to their analog roots – the highest of any group in the survey – an eyebrow-raising 63% of 18- to 34-year-olds also agreed with this sentiment. But a desire to disconnect isn’t simply a matter of nostalgia.

Hybrid Working

The survey also revealed that 57% of people under 35 agreed with the statement that “technology is more likely to divide people than unite them”– an indication that the social media generation may be growing weary – and wary – of the world of feuding tech billionaires, Chat GPT and Deepfake. But beyond the attention-grabbing posts, there are subtler moves at play.

Research from Keypoint Intelligence reveals that the paperless office is less appealing to the workforce than managers seem to think. A survey of nearly 500 general office workers between the ages of 18 and 69 showed that 62% always or sometimes preferred working on paper, with employees under 35 more likely to prefer working with paper than their older counterparts2. This finding contradicts the assumption that younger generations view print as old-fashioned and irrelevant, when the opposite is often the case. While most adopt a hybrid approach to working, using each technology where most appropriate, the fact remains that pen and paper are often deemed the most effective tools for certain tasks.

The Power of Paper

This surprising preference for paper is borne out by the experience of Taymoor Atighetchi, founder and CEO of the luxury stationery company Papier, which has been a start-up success story since it launched in 2015. “Nostalgia alone isn’t going to build a business,” he says. “The majority of our customers are 25 to 35, so they have got nothing really to reference. The internet was already around when they were born. I think it’s something deeper than nostalgia, something innate and human about receiving physical products.”

Notably, Papier is first and foremost an e-commerce brand. By utilizing the power of digital publishing, it offers print-to-order personalized stationery that ranges from notepads and writing papers to wedding invitations, cards, calendars and planners.

“There are studies that show that when people connect their mind to pen and paper, more thought goes into it,” says Atighetchi. “There’s magic that happens there, compared to when you are writing on WhatsApp. Something happens that makes that message more meaningful.”

From corporate communications to personal letters, from adult coloring books to a surging interest in Origami, it seems that most of us prefer a hands-on, tactile approach to productivity and creativity once in a while. And for those of us who find the demands of the digital-first lifestyle stressful at times, paper may provide just the moment of zen we need.

1 The Harris Poll, June 2023

2 United States Future of Work Survey, Keypoint Intelligence, 2022