Browsing through a handful of hardback reads in my favorite bookstore several weeks ago in hopes of scoring a few items on my must read list, I stumbled across a sturdy, chunky book mixed in with the rest that seemed out of place. The book boasted a title that encouraged the reader to “unplug from their life”, and gave a year’s worth of suggestions to log off and “live better”. Perplexed at the extensive advice this text presumably held, I thumbed through the first few entries, and was blown away by the simplicity of its offerings: bake cookies, take an evening walk, read the flyers on storefront windows. Then it hit me: these are all the things we used to do before the internet permeated our day to day existence. And now we have to have a manual to remind us how to function as human beings.
Before the internet, you would argue with your brother in the backseat of the Dodge Dynasty for two whole hours on your way to Pigeon Forge about which band sang which song in which movie that you saw in the theater recently. We knew it would be at least a year before it was released on VHS, then we would have to fast forward all the way to the credit reel to see who was correct! Nowadays, that argument would be settled in mere seconds while you rode the rest of the way in silence, arguing with other people through a device instead of your own sibling. And what is a sibling relationship without a little rivalry?
Before the internet, when you asked the lady at church for her recipe of her famous peach cobbler after the fall homecoming, you would receive it the following Wednesday, penned in cursive handwriting on a fresh 3×5 index card. Children are no longer instructed the art of penmanship in most schools currently, and Pinterest has no less than two thousand and eighty six peach cobbler recipes to date. But you just cannot figure out why not a one of them taste like the one at the church gathering. When phoned at home before the internet, the person calling would ask to speak with you, at which time your parents deemed it either appropriate timing or not, to which you would slide down the hallway in your sock feet to the one landline phone in the house, prop up against the wall and methodically twirl the phone cord on your index finger. Now we dial the person directly with that same index finger, while ignoring the ones sitting right in front of us. Before the internet, we performed crazy acts like walking on foot to the library, using this insane device called a card catalog, and flying through those yellowed cards with the Dewey Decimal System as our guide. We received free stickers, not free apps, upon leaving the building. Now, with one click, we have the ability to access hundreds of thousands of digital copies, right at our fingertips. And it pains me to realize that my children will never have the joy of the hunt quite like we did.
We used to send thank you notes instead of emails, took pictures with a camera that required the developing of film, and knew our neighbors beyond their photos on facebook. Our generation is the last that will remember what life was like before tweets, posts, likes, and shares. May we never forget how to bake cookies, take evening walks, and read the flyers on the storefront windows. May we never forget how to live life to the fullest.
(PS: if you want to read this article in print, check out my weekly column in the LaFollette Press this Thursday, Letters from the Nest.) (You can find my newest content for July (here) and one of my recent favorites where I get REAL (here) ).