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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Things I Miss about the Pre-Internet Age

If I didn't have a job where I was on the computer/at my desk 90% of the day, I think I'd find blogging much easier. But since that's my current job position and blogging can't be done off the computer (even if posts are drafted offline), c'est la vie.

I was thinking about the constant connectivity and reminiscing about the good ole days. You know, before everybody and their dog/cat/piranha was on Facebook. Before Google became a verb. Before encyclopedias became a worthless, outdated waste of precious space on my bookshelf. Before I had to surrender the comforting illusion that it was possible to maintain some sense of anonymity from the crowd, the government, and the whole wide world.

Without further ado, here are some other things I miss about the pre-internet age:
  • For starters, having time just to write in a journal, instead of wasting so many hours checking Facebook, Twitter, news sites, and sundry other online locations. It's like a never-ending information smorgasbord. And guess what. I'm getting full.
  • Paying bills by check, not online. It just isn't the same.
  • Having to sort through a kazillion digital photos because 1) it's so tempting to crank out 10 takes "just in case" 2) I'm a photo junkie anyway and 3) no one seems to remember how to take decent pictures on the first try anymore. Then having to decide which to get prints of, or post online, and which to let linger and die a slow digital death in my computer and/or external hard drive. And, I miss taking my rolls of camera film to the store to get them developed, not knowing what awesome shots would await me when I picked them up.
  • Not knowing whatever happened to my childhood friends. This lack of knowledge of what they looked like/who they married/how many kids they've spawned, etc. kept me somehow saner. Also it left me free to imagine them having perfectly nice lives, as compared to the trainwrecks some people turned out to be. Why did I need to know that?
  • Christmas shopping in actual stores. Yeah, I still do some of that (ok fine, a LOT of it) every October-December, but things have changed. Black Friday is now more of a cyber reality than a physical one. I remember standing outside Toys'R'Us at 4 a.m. one year to get my little cousin some ridiculously "hot" (and therefore scarce) toy that neither he nor I can remember now. (It wasn't a Tickle Me Elmo or a Furby, but beyond that, it could have been anything.) But y'know, that experience of laying seige to a store mere hours after the humble glory of Thanksgiving caved to the commercialism of Christmas, it was a memorable time. Akin to freezing my heinie off before the midnight movie premiere of LOTR: Return of the King. Ah, memories...
  • Not having to watch commercials for sites like eHarmony and banks with "free" online checking and Orbitz and Priceline (even though Capt. Kirk, I mean William Shatner, is awesome as the Negotiator) and every other conceivable website ever made. I miss real commercials for real things. Like Irish Spring Soap. And Campell's soup. (Remember that one where the snowman eats the soup until he melts into a little boy?) And Frosted Flakes. Oh c'mon, they're gr-r-r-reat and you know it.

  • Not getting assaulted by flashing sidebars and annoying "FREE!" offers and all sorts of junk that I have no intention of buying anywhere, let alone online.
  • Not having a compulsion to check my favorite internet sites whenever I open my laptop, thus delaying whatever "real" work I had every intention of doing when I first sat down.
  • Not feeling guilty about not blogging. Because, hey, I didn't have a blog! Footloose and fancy-free. Oh, was I ever that young?
I could go on, but there's a quick list of what I miss about the days before internet. How about you? What do you miss? (If anything. Feel free to tell me the internet's the best thing since sliced bread and I'm crazy to see any downsides to living in the digital age. I'll call you a techno-crazed lunatic, but you're entitled to your opinion. Of course, the ultimate irony is that I'll be insulting you across cyberspace. I always did like irony.)


  1. Did people ever know how to take good photos? Bec thinks the secret to good photos, at least in part, is and has always been to take a lot of them and then sort them out later.

  2. Do you feel the same way about the push towards digital books? Have you joint that club yet? I'm really not sure how easily I can move from a good old worn paperback or nice new hardcover release in my hands to another electronic device (as I write this in bed from my iPhone).

    I absolutely prefer paying bills (automatically) online. I still wait outside BestBuy/Target at 4am, if nothing else but for the cheap movies (only time I buy anymore). Photos are a pain in the ass, I don't even find time to print anymore, but at least it's cheaper than film. I do really like the photo books (Shutterfly).

  3. David, I don't know that people ever knew how to take good photos, but at least when film was expensive and shots were rationed, I feel like people were more likely to not intentionally screw up a lot of shots just for the heck of it. You wouldn't believe the number of takes required to get anything resembling a normal face from my cousin. I guess what I liked about pre-digital pics was their authenticity... Even bad photos were more real and less staged. Maybe because you couldn't preview them immediately afterwards.

  4. Chriscilla, I've never read an e-book, but I despise them anyway, on principle (see "Another electronic device" is exactly what I don't need right now.... As for Shutterfly and all the photo books, coffee mugs, t-shirts, etc., I like having the option to personalize stuff like that. Just wish we could have done that without digitizing everything.

    Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts! :)

  5. I miss the authenticity. Everything you did existed in the physical world. Going to the bank to deposit a paper check, for example, meant actually moving your body from place to place, seeing people and places along the way and getting to know the local tellers to the degree you can do so. Something about clicking "pay now" while in bed, then going to the iphone to check Facebook is just not that people-ish, if I can coin a new word. Ordering clothes on line just does not cut it either. You don't feel the texture or smell the fresh material, or go an aisle away to see if you can run into something else of interest by chance, even if you don't end up buying it. Same story with renting movies. Going through shelves of DVD's or even VHS tapes, picking them up, giving in to the temptation to get that cheap video store cotton candy. Back in the day, everything was real. Today it's all about pushing buttons. The day they create the Star Trek beam me up Scottie thing is the day that you won't even have to drive or walk anywhere. At some point, who knows, maybe our whole lives will be lived in virtual reality. My only question...Will we have virtual iphones and virtually text people in our virtual world? Ever notice, the characters in video games never text each other?