x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 October 2017

Why I'm not ready yet to turn the page on stationery for technology 

Digital apps may be slowly replacing  paper stationery but I'm not going to give in to technology's temptations 

Reem Mohammed / The National
Reem Mohammed / The National

This month marks a return to schools and universities and, as I walk past “back-to-school” sale signs cluttering store windows in the Mall of the Emirates, I am reminded of my own excitement at the prospect of going back-to-school shopping as a child.

While my friends would look forward to new shoes and backpacks, my excitement lay in the purchasing of new notebooks, diaries, folders and binders. I would happily forgo a trip to the Clarks shoe shop if it meant I could spend extra time at Borders and Paperchase.

Years down the line, stationery is an addiction I haven’t been able to shake off. In fact, I have been drawn deeper and deeper into that world. At home, I have a storage box full of unused notebooks, bought at book stores or on my travels.

In the top drawer of my desk I have four notebooks of various shapes and sizes, and six different sticky-note pads, while two smaller notebooks –one which has the text “Radiate good vibes” embossed in gold on the cover – live in my handbag.

Filling a notebook is a bittersweet experience – on the one hand, I am sad when it needs replacing, but on the other, I look forward to taking out a brand new design from my stash.

Agenda stationery is my annual highlight. California-based brand Ban.do produce my favourites and their offerings even come with sheets of stickers. Call it childish, but decorating my agenda is a pastime I won’t be giving up anytime soon.

I have to admit that my unwavering enthusiasm for notepads, pens and calendars, has even at times hindered my willingness to move with the times, as it has made me somewhat resistant to embracing technology – specifically, apps that are not so pretty but promise to streamline our lives by allowing us to create notes digitally, no cute notebook required.

In Toronto, I had bought a pink and black notepad decorated with kitchen utensils and hoped to use it to jot down grocery lists at home. But my husband had a different idea – one that hardly involves handwritten notes or stationery.

He insisted I download Google Keep – an app that allows you to create lists and synchronise them with friends and family. So, if he is at work and knows we are running low on eggs, he can open the app on his phone and add eggs to the list. This addition will automatically show on the list when I open the app on my device, even if we’re miles apart.

I’ll admit it’s a smart and convenient way to share and consolidate lists. But it’s not all that appealing to someone who remained steadfast in hand-writing notes during university while her peers brought in MacBooks and would type rather than write during class. While I may be reasonably tech-savvy, I’m fairly certain I’ll never join those who use apps such as Google Calendar to schedule tasks and meetings.

Perhaps I’m attracted to the freedom and flexibility that comes with a blank sheet of paper so that while bored I can doodle. And, the best part, it will never run low on battery power or require a charger.

I’m sure there is a therapeutic element to my obsession with taking hand-written notes, creating heaps of physical to-do lists on sticky-notes and decorating my daily agenda with scribbles and kitschy stickers.

But my preference for tangible stationery goes hand-in-hand with a yearning for older days, when stories were in books rather than on e-readers, and personal images inside photo albums not on digital feeds.

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Read more of Hafa's columns:

There's no shame in choosing not to cook

Forsaking prayer rooms for peace

How a trip to the beauty salon brings out the ugly side in some people

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