The Good

We played outside more.

We not only didn’t have social media, my family didn’t even own a computer until I was 13.

We were supposed to play outside while it was nice.

When we were inspired by books we read or stories we heard, as children we would go outside to reenact the things we saw or heard.

Oftentimes we would make up our own story lines.

More often than not, those plots included treasure hunting and making sure the bad guys were brought to justice.

We read more books.

Reading was heavily pushed in the libraries as it is today.

Kids were rewarded for how many books they were able to read over the summer vacation months.

Kids saw this as an opportunity to read more in line with the exciting genres they may not have had time to read during the school year.

“The Little Prince,” “The Time Machine,” and “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," have their value, but nothing at the time beat out Nancy Drew.

We had family time.

Some families still do this, but we had more of it. Dad came home at a certain time. When he was working day shift, we got to see him by dinner time. We spent weekends doing things as a family. Usually outside.

We ate food together at a table.

Breakfast and dinner. Lunch was at school.

We didn’t have mobile devices and if we did they wouldn’t have been allowed at the table. Toys weren’t. Mobile devices wouldn’t have been either.

Infomercials were plentiful.

Infomercials were commercials for a product or a service that lasted 30 minutes or longer that you watched on TV. I’m almost certain some cable subscription services still have them.

Anything you wanted (or didn’t know you needed) could be found taking up airtime: gadgets, knives, vacations, skin care items, weight loss mechanisms, and more.

It was infomercials where I was first introduced to the concept that if you’re not hustling to make you’re own lifestyle choices you weren’t serious about life.

If you weren’t following the program they were selling, you weren’t succeeding in life and you never would.

You often felt an urge to purchase this program or class you couldn’t quite afford, drop everything in your life and follow their instructions but you didn’t know why.

Microsoft was the good guy.

You were their customer. You’re habits weren’t any of their business and they cared about your user experience.

Your personal data, website searches, viewing habits and more weren’t sold. They didn’t spy on you or report you to the authorities for suspected crimes.

There wasn’t anything coercive about their built in software settings, nor did they force you through behavior flows in order to squeeze it out of you under the guise of “Terms and Conditions.”

In fact, DOS was for smart, hip, and up and coming people who wanted to be efficient about paper processes.

Later, Windows would be a gift to the world.

Comments to news reports or articles we read were discussed in person.

And from time-to-time people (including my grandmother) would get fired up enough to write strongly worded “letters to the editor.” This was a section in the newspapers that now equates to today’s “comments” section. Some newspapers still have these.

When I as a teenager, one of the papers instituted a policy where the editor reserved the right to edit those letters prior to publishing.

As a teenager, I never quite trusted or respected that paper as much going forward.

I remember being vocal about this around the breakfast table. “If they can just edit what you write, how is freedom of the press reserved and protected?”

I wasn’t allowed to slam my fist down on the table, but I sure wanted to.

Even at that young age, I realized a slow-creeping injustice was occurring.

I felt powerless to stop it and that made me angry.

Today, I understand the need and ability to be able to edit submissions and content. Some people just don't know how to play well with others.

As a writer, to get your work published, you had to submit query letters by snail mail to publications.

You waited months to hear something, if anything back on your work. You weren’t paid in cents per article. You were paid in dollars. Sometimes, you were even paid .25 to a $1.00 per word.

Yes, really.

Proving your work as writer meant photocopying your pieces to share.

These were called “clips.” Maybe they still are.

There were no links you could share and no profile pages to drive traffic to. Unless of course, you wanted to learn how to do this thing called “HTML” and make your own “web page.”

Back then, that was reserved for the super smart people.

Your community was literally the city and county you physically lived in.

Your neighborhood was the street or the few blocks surrounding the street you lived on. The local church(es) in your area functioned as backup shelters, free counseling when needed, meeting houses, and event hubs for the area.

“Liability” was never really a thing.

Chat rooms were uncharted territory and live streaming only happened when there was “breaking news” on TV.

Chat rooms for scam artists. Everybody knew that.

These were new uncharted territories and soon there was a reputation of being taken advantage of.

Live streaming only happened when the local news channel was “live” on TV reporting on something.

This was the only real-time information we got. There were no other real information sources to compare events to until we began hearing of reports of people on the ground after the fact. Well after the fact.

Hobbies weren’t hustles.

We were content to explore our hobbies and our interests on our own time.

There was no other agenda but to just enjoy them for the sake of the experiences or how they made us feel.

You could take a class a community college or local library just to see if it’s something you wanted to keep learning about.

You didn’t have to always see things through a lens of, “How could this make me money?”

The Bad

woman face palming on table
Photo by Issam Hammoudi / Unsplash

You didn’t learn about the dark underbelly of the world unless you purposely went looking for it in other sources.

Out of sight out of mind.

  • Human trafficking wasn’t widely known about.
  • Porn only happened in adult magazines or on VHS tapes you bought or rented and physically took home with you.
  • Domestic violence wasn’t considered real unless there were broken bones, bruises or blood.
  • Gays and lesbians never came out of the closet. It usually meant violence or worse would be committed against them. Today, those are called hate crimes.
  • Gender bias was heavily swept under the rug both at home and at work. Women rarely held jobs in science or tech. When we did, we were rarely featured or publicized. When we were, we were always, always, always expected to wear a skirt and heels of some sort when doing so. Today, in some places, girls and women aren’t permitted to learn how to read.
  • Unless it was happening to you or to someone you knew, you weren’t aware that sexual abuse happens to little kids.
  • Being a whistleblower could you get killed.
  • When a company stiffed you for a refund or wouldn’t honor a warranty, you were forced to live with it. Now, you can just make a few widely publicized posts if necessary and those loophole behaviors are exposed.

Summary

Life was slower before social media.

We weren’t compelled to be up in each other’s business before, during, and after school or work.

We weren’t addicted to the notification icons.

We didn’t compare ourselves the Jones’s on surface or even several other smaller levels.

We did more outside.

More often we actually knew the names of our neighbors even if we weren’t buddies or BFFs.

We also couldn’t speak out or speak up as easy as we can now. We couldn’t right wrongs nearly as fast, if ever.

We couldn’t expose injustices as they were happening or offer proof thereof.

We couldn’t readily fact check what were being told by those on a podium whether the message was religious, political, or “breaking news.”

Change happens whether we want it to or not. It’s up to us to learn how to wield that sword effectively and for the good of ourselves, our families, and our communities.