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Opinion: Is the iPhone threatening to kill off toilet literature?

This week, editorial assistant Maisie Skidmore questions whether the iPhone is killing those high-brow cultural outlets labelled toilet literature. As ever, you can join discussion in the comments section below!

The National Geographic makes for excellent toilet literature. It’s dominated by awe-inspiring photographs of people, places and animals that you’ve never seen before. The imagery is artfully interspersed with fascinating snippets of information (“Why do narwhals have tusks?” or “What does a 2,000 year-old Roman shipwreck look like?”) It does a great job of proving to anybody who might be visiting you that you’re the National Geographic reading type, and that you choose to improve your otherwise limited brain while hanging out on the throne. You’re efficient, and worldly. You know a lot about climate change.

For years now the National Geographic, alongside the likes of Time magazine and Art Review, has been bringing culture to time-spent-on-the-toilet worldwide. It brings some sophistication to going for a wee. And it’s come under threat in recent years due to the arrival of the iPhone.

What exactly does the iPhone offer to the act of going to the toilet? Suddenly, a whole generation of people have every corner of the world wide web at their fingertips, and what’s more, while you might be too ashamed to slink off to the bathroom for a short stay with a laptop cradled under your arm, nobody’s going to look twice at the phone sitting quietly in your back pocket and guess that you’re in for, ahem, a long stay.

And the reading material that this handheld device proffers? It’s a far cry from the high-brow information that toilet literature can offer. Arguably Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are the principal culprits for useless time-wasting, but swift on their heels come Reddit, OMG Facts and Buzzfeed, and a load of sites chockablock with memes and funny pictures and trashy gossip about celebrities.

I mean, I’m happy to admit that the death of toilet literature might not be a cultural emergency along the same lines as, say Edward Snowden’s discoveries about the U.S.A., or the economic crisis. But the ramifications for a generation who have even less contact with the high-brow media outlets our parents and grandparents happily subscribed to… Well, it’s saddening, at the very least.

Rather than emerging proudly from the loo to announce to the living room that a newly gained crumb of information about the new discoveries surrounding the Big Bang, you’ll leave it having retweeted a meme of a sloth whispering something sleazy into a model’s ear. And if you know the one I’m on about, maybe it’s time to subscribe to the National Geographic.