Zia Hassan

The Wonder Of Magazines

During my social media fast during the month of March, I found myself less interested in my phone when I was bored, say, sitting in a waiting room. So in these cases, I would usually resort to listening to music, or leaning into the boredom, which enhanced my creative thoughts and spurred new ideas.

But in waiting rooms, I noticed something that I hadn’t really noticed in a while – magazines. The interesting thing about magazines in today’s world is that they don’t need to be create click-baity headlines. Now, I’m not referring to the ones you see at the grocery store, because those have always been clickbait. But the ones you find in say, a psychologists office, can exist on their own, without the need to draw you in.

Leafing through the magazine, I found some interesting articles about how nutrition is related to mood. I noticed that these articles were long form, they weren’t listicles. They weren’t out to try and get you to keep scrolling down a page. And more importantly, the content didn’t feel forced. The pictures weren’t covered by pop-up advertisements. I felt like I could concentrate on an article longer than I could with a Medium post.

There really is something about high quality paper, too, that enhances the experience. We could chalk this up to aesthetics, but as James Clear explains in his book Atomic Habits, making an activity attractive and satisfying increases a person’s motivation to continue the habit.

And pictures. When was the last time you looked closely at a photo on a physical piece of paper instead of your screen? Because the screen as a medium as its limits. With paper, you can adjust the quality and go for a particular effect. It’s more effective than the filters we put on our Instagram posts.

So I made it a little quest to go to Barnes and Noble and find some magazines that interested me. I got some on Zen Buddhism, philosophy, art, and creativity. What I found when I got home was that I had spent hours on the couch just simply reading. Not flicking through a feed, not getting distracted by some email or text notification … just reading, in peace. Time flew so quickly that I had forgotten to cook dinner.

And things I learned from the articles were far more interesting than reading the (essentially) same post over and over on Medium. For instance, I read about how to create a sensory garden (a garden that is constructed for the purpose of engaging all 5 senses). It was in a magazine about creativity and well-being, and while there are many podcasts and blogs that pontificate about this subject, this was the first time I was exposed to this particular concept of a sensory garden.

The nature by which we read magazines is inherently different than the nature by which we search online. With a magazine, there is intention. I sit down and intend to read the articles inside. Online, I spin the wheel and hope that whatever shakes out is valuable. I go online to find something, anything really. I go on to get my fix.

But when I read a magazine, I become curious. Not just playfully curious but actually curious. It’s this type of curiosity that I believe will save us in the age of click bait and listicles.