In his book Revenge of the Analog, David Sax makes the case that good old-fashioned analog products aren’t going anywhere any time soon. And it isn’t just hipsters––with their love of vinyl and Polaroids––propping up the market for old-school stuff. His research, and the research of many others, points to something more fundamental: humans like physical things.
Now, this comes with a caveat. Obviously we are at a point where digital addiction is the norm. Saying we like physical things more than screens seems counter-intuitive. Yes, we usually choose screens over reading books or hiking or painting. But we choose them in the same way a four year-old chooses candy over a nourishing meal. It’s not good for us. Anytime we exercise some self-discipline and go for that hike, our brains and bodies light up with joy.
So, it’s good for us to put our phones down. But as many studies make clear, it goes much deeper than that. Screens are affecting how we learn––and not for the better.
Research by Bangor University found that when we encounter information on physical material (like paper), we remember, comprehend, and connect with it better than when we encounter it on a screen. Not only do we handle abstract concepts better on paper, but we actually become more emotionally linked to information in physical form. Many other studies have led to the same conclusions.
To put it another way, learning through screens lowers comprehension, retention, and emotional connectivity. Yikes.
Maybe we understand this on a gut level, because, in spite of all the digital world has to offer, we’re slowly getting back to the basics: 18-29 year-olds are more likely to have read a book in the last year than those 65 and older (80% vs. 67%). But, here’s the interesting part, they’re also more likely than seniors to have a read a print book (72% vs. 61%).*
So the generation coming up is reading more than their grandparents. And, contrary to what most of us would assume, they want to read on paper.
But don’t write this off as just a millennial trend. Everyone wants paper. Sales of e-books have flatlined in the last few years while sales of print books are going up.
How does this relate to your church?
If you want biblical truths to sink into the hearts and minds of your congregation, take these two steps:
- Tone down the use of screens in church
- Buy print curriculum
Digital signs in the lobby and multimedia experiences during services are backfiring. Study after study shows that people are not connecting with it. Move away from relying heavily on screens to communicate with your church.
When you buy curriculum (for small groups, etc.), buy print copies. And encourage those with iPads and e-readers to do the same. Reading on paper is superior to reading digitally: better comprehension, memory, and understanding. This seems especially important in the context of a Bible study.
Why is paper better? To sum up all the theories and their complicated jargon: our brains prefer physical things. People want to take notes, feel the pages, highlight, flip back and forth––all of it adds up to much more immersive experience than a screen could ever offer.
Encourage your church to put their electronic devices away––not because you‘re old-fashioned, quite the opposite actually: you’re so up-to-date on the latest research, you’d hate to rob them of all the benefits of an analog world.
Partners In Ministry offers several small group studies that are 100% analog. Many of the studies have a short answer format which will further increase your group’s interaction with the material and provide an immersive learning experience.