You’d think that as tech advanced, old ways of doing things would fall out of use. But that hasn’t been the case with writing by hand. Writing by hand with a digital device (sounds like an oxymoron, but it isn’t) is popular.
In a world where digital tools have out-moded our organization tools of the past (like paper planners, calendars, and notebooks) in the name of better functionality and efficiency, is there still a place for writing by hand?
When digital devices started moving into our daily lives, typing on a keyboard was the way you entered information for storage. Some devices began offering a stylus to use as a digital “pencil” but they had limited capabilities and many glitches. As tech has improved, so have the tools for digital writing. The Apple Pencil is one, and so are digital notebooks, journals, planning tools, and handwriting to text capabilities.
It would seem that in a world of technology, using a pencil would be going backward. But when the Apple Pencil hit the shelves it was instantly popular with buyers. If we can simply use keypads to type information into our iPads, why are we buying a digital pencil?
Turns out there are plenty of reasons why. Some are preference and some are science, but they’re all compelling and tell a story about people and how our minds work, and why writing things out by hand is still important to us in an age of digital technology.
Why is the Apple Pencil so successful?
The Apple Pencil is more than just a stick that leaves a line behind it when you drag it across a surface. It’s more than just a pencil, and it’s more than just a stylus. The Apple Pencil gives you the ability to do what you already know how to do—write—but you’re not limited to writing only. Functions have been built into the pencil that allows it to work with apps and programs on your iPad, meaning you can select, drag, open apps, markup PDFs, screenshots, and images, and so much more. It’s a pencil, but acts as an extension of the device you use it on.This blending of the familiar with the new is what has given the Apple Pencil it’s popularity among users.
And did I mention it’s pressure-sensitive? What does that mean? The thickness and darkness of the line it draws is determined by how much pressure you use when you write with it, just like with an actual pencil. This function (along with palm rejection) has made the Apple pencil wildly popular among artists who can use it to draw their art on an iPad and have it in digital format. Artists can also take advantage of the quick custom color settings, different size and texture brush tips, and most importantly, no lag.
Why using the Apple Pencil helps make transitioning to tech easier
Another reason, besides the quality and functions, that the Apple pencil has been so successful is due to familiarity. Let me explain. While it’s obvious apps and digital tools have more usable functions to help a person completely organize their work, tasks, thoughts, budgets, schedules, and projects, learning to use technology comes with a learning curve that stops many from giving it a try. But when you add something new to something you’re already familiar with, it makes learning the new thing easier.
A concept in psychology called the mere-exposure effect, or the familiarity principle, says that people tend to prefer the things they’re familiar with versus an alternative that is something new. This preference for the familiar means that people will naturally gravitate toward an electronic device that looks and works like a pencil.
This can make using the Apple Pencil beneficial when learning to use apps and digital devices. The pencil is familiar. Writing by hand is familiar. To try a feature in an app, you can just tap with the tip of the pencil. The digital pencil combined with a tablet opens the door to learning and using technology that may have felt too overwhelming to try without it.
The familiarity that comes with using an Apple pencil naturally lends itself to other digital writing tools, like digital notebooks and journals, bullet journals, calendars, to-do lists, and more.
And just to highlight how attached we are to the familiar, I’ll tell you a little story.
I love digital tools. I love to try out new apps and find ways to integrate them for optimal use. But the one thing I wasn’t impressed with was digital handwriting. Why? Well, before the Apple Pencil came along, there just wasn’t a tool that was good enough to do the job. But that’s not what this story is about. It was writing on a slippery screen that I hated most.
Now surely, this wasn’t enough to stop me from trying to write on my tablet. Well, almost. Instead, I did what I usually do. I tested and tested and tested different screen protectors that claimed to make writing on the surface of a tablet better. Nothing I tried gave me that “paper” feeling I loved and was so familiar with.
Then I found the PaperLike screen protector and all that changed. The PaperLike gave me that slightly rough paper-like texture I was looking for, and changed my writing experience on a tablet from bad to good. The PaperLike screen protector has become a central accessory in my digital lifestyle (so much so that I was invited to write an article on the PaperLike blog). The PaperLike screen protector is another tool you can add to your iPad to make writing by hand a familiar and pleasant experience.
We’ve talked about some of the reasons digital handwriting is popular, but what could make it healthy? Read on to find out.
Writing helps with healing
Expressive writing about past negative experiences has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, help with recovery from traumatic surgeries, and even boost the immune system.
Several studies looked at the effect expressive writing has on helping people process trauma. These studies had participants use expressive writing about the traumatic or unhappy event, along with their thoughts, feelings, and observations. After several days of consistent writing (15-20 minutes duration) the participants were found to have significantly better psychological outcomes than those who wrote about neutral topics.
But what was even more interesting was the fact that these people also showed an improvement in immune function after the writing exercises. The researches in these studies believe that repressing painful thoughts and feelings compromises the immune system and processing these feelings by writing them down helps improve immune function.
Another study, funded by the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health, looked at whether writing about your feelings could reduce worry and help you perform more efficiently at an upcoming stressful task.
In the study, associate professor of psychology and director of MSU’s Clinical Psychophysiology Lab, Jason Moser, and his associates, had 2 groups of chronically anxious college students complete an 8-minute writing assignment before beginning a stressful task. Half the group wrote about their deepest feelings and thoughts about the upcoming task, and half the group wrote about what they did the day before.
The researchers measured each student with an EEG as they then completed the stressful task. The expressive writing group actually used fewer brain resources to complete the task than the group who wrote about their previous day’s activities. “Expressive writing makes the mind work less hard on upcoming stressful tasks, which is what worriers often get “burned out” over, their worried minds working harder and hotter,” Moser said.
You don’t just get benefit from writing about your worries. Studies also show increases in happiness when we journal about the things we’re grateful for. No matter how you look at it, writing about our feelings seems to be beneficial.
Digital writing makes using a digital journal for expressive writing easier and more convenient because of the flexibility digital tools offer. This is one of the reasons why Digital Journals are so Popular and useful. They come in different formats that can be used to record thoughts and feelings, from a notebook page to a bullet journal. You can also customize your own digital journal to have the features you like best.
When thoughts are journaled digitally, not only do you get the benefits of writing about your feelings, you also get to keep those thoughts and feelings stored in a digitally secure format. When used with a note-taking app, your digital notes can be kept behind a password inside the app and a password on your device.