I was thinking the other day about how simple things used to be before social media, before I had a computer phone in my pocket, and before I had any concept that time goes by so quickly. When I was a kid I thought that I couldn’t wait to turn 21 years old and that was so far away it would NEVER happen. And then I turned 21 and I had a baby and I was married and I had bills to pay and I wanted the freedom of being a little kid again where my biggest decision was whether or not to put my Smokey the Bear teddy under the covers. Would he get hot at night? I didn’t know.
Now I’m closing in on a half century of years on this earth and life when I was 21-years-old seems so simple. I had a home phone and a little voicemail recorder with a cassette tape in it. I could watch what was on TV and be content with a few network channels, but I didn’t have a VCR so I couldn’t record it. If I wanted peace and quiet while the baby was sleeping I could take my home phone off the hook and read a book, with actual pages.
When I was a kid I thought we would be up in space by now, living the quiet life in little ships floating around planet Earth, maybe even spending a year to two going to the Moon or Mars to live there, but I didn’t ever think that we would be texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Snap Chatting, worrying about our identity being stolen, or the NSA listening to our conversations. I didn’t need encrypted email or a password management program just to keep it all straight. I bought my first computer for $3000 in 1993 and began using Windows 3.1, which compared to the DOS program I was using was beyond awesome. But there was no network, no email, no wifi, no Dropbox, no iTunes or AppStore. I think that first computer I bought had a 32 MB hard drive. 32 Megabytes! I can take a photo on my camera that is more than 32 MB all by itself.
I wonder if all these things make life better, easier, more convenient or if we are so connected to old high school friends who are traveling the world and posting it on Facebook that we miss the great stuff happening in our life right now. Maybe we miss the smile one of our kids gave us at the dinner table because we were reading someone’s political rant on Tumblr.
There are things I miss, things that just don’t happen anymore because I’ve grown up, but also things that don’t happen because technology has somehow filled the space of where something used to be.
- I miss running to the TV to see a music video I’d been waiting to see all day
- I miss recording my favorite songs from the radio onto a cassette tape
- I miss Kick-The-Can
- I miss eating at the dinner table where there are no cell phones and the TV is not on
- I miss playing cards with friends who actually come over to your house to play cards
- I miss the Rainbow bars on the TV screen when the station stopped broadcasting at midnight
- I miss stretching out the curly phone cord trying to get down the hall and tuck into my bedroom so no one could hear my call
- I miss writing letters and getting letters
- I miss the days before reality television
- I miss writing checks in my actual checkbook and then putting the amounts in the register to I could balance the account at the end of the month when the statement came in the mail
- I miss putting photos in photo albums
- I miss 110 film and 35 mm film and I miss taking those film rolls to the local grocery store and waiting a few days to see how the pictures turned out
- I miss camping with no wifi
- I miss the Dewey Decimal System
- I miss getting up to adjust the “rabbit ears” on the television
- I miss going to Disneyworld and running to get Fastpasses and not needing to keep checking my phone for my ride reservations made two months in advance
- I miss waiting a week to see how the cliffhanger on my favorite TV show resolves itself
- I miss taking a VCR tape and recording my shows on extended play mode so I could get six hours of recorded TV on one VCR tape
- I miss playing Asteroids and Missile Command and I even miss the old Mario Kart
- I miss seeing someone I haven’t seen in a long time and sitting down for coffee and catching up on their life, not knowing what is going on because I saw their posts on Facebook
- I purposefully read books with actual pages because I missed them
- I miss life before selfie sticks and also life before selfies
- I miss buying maps at the gas station because we’re going on a road trip and I need to know how to get us where we are going
- I miss carrying CD’s in my car and letting the same one play for weeks and weeks
- I miss drive in movies with the little speaker you would pull off the post and hang on your open car window so you could hear the movie
I’m sure I’ll add more to this list as I think of things. Maybe it is my nostalgia for the days when my kids were around and my empty-nest-brain has me missing all that, but even with three little kids and car seats and strollers and play dates and ballet classes and making it to the community pool early to stake out the best spot in the grass and then waiting for my middle son to get out of the pool changing room because he took so damn long, those busy days seems less busy than my life does now.
Where are we going to eat dinner? Let’s Yelp a place. Where is their house? Let me map it on my phone. What movie do you want to see? Let’s look it up online to see what the ratings are. Let’s invite some friends over? Oh no, they can’t come over, I saw on Facebook that they are getting divorced. Are you ready to go? Hang a second I need to make a 20-photo collage of our day to post on Instagram.
Is it better? Worse? Or just different? And since it is pretty different, is it all for the best? Is being this connected and this plugged in making things easier? I see the notification for 10 Words With Friends games I need to play and I wonder when I’m going to find the time. I would rather find the time to read a book and sip a cup of chamomile tea. It is all about choices though, and making a solid, grounded choice to turn off the cell phone and put it away.
What do you miss?