Way back then. The good old days. Once upon a time. We’ve all heard about it: the golden era of recent history, back before the world wide web went and ruined everything. Most of us have heard about this epoch in time, mostly from our parents or our older peers. They’re eager to share their stories about how they could buy a loaf of bread for a nickel, people still learned how to write in cursive, and they had to walk to school in snow this high (cue palm at chest level) uphill, both ways. And while the older generation likes to espouse how amazing the world was before the internet came along, it may be a safe bet to say that their memories of this time are a little bit rosy. Because I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was there. And it wasn’t all that great, if I had to be completely honest.
I wrote my term papers with an actual encyclopedia
These days, our access to information is seemingly endless. If you want to learn something, all you need to do is sit down in front of your computer, pull up your browser window, and type your inquiry into the search bar. Or, if that’s too much work for you, you can whip out your smartphone and ask Siri your question and let her answer it. But me? I actually had to make the arduous trek to the library, use the card catalog, and look for relevant books manually. It. Was. Torture. (Or, maybe I just have a penchant for the dramatic? Yeah, that’s probably it.)
I took keyboarding in elementary (on a typewriter!)
In the olden days, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, we didn’t have computers in every classroom. I didn’t even use one until elementary school, and computer lab days were considered a rare treat. Instead, we had to take a special class called “keyboarding,” which was just a fancy term for, “Okay, You Really Need to Learn How to Type Now.” Why? Because typing was for essays, not for browsing the internet! And yes, I really did learn how to type on a clackety manual typewriter. We called it the “hunt and peck” method, and it worked surprisingly well for the time!
I lost touch with my grade school friends
In sixth grade, my best friend moved away. She was the sweetest person ever, and we weren’t going to let something as trivial as her relocating to another state tear us apart. She carefully wrote her new address down on a piece of paper, made me promise I’ll write to her every single day, and we said our sad goodbyes. You know what I did? Being a sixth grader, I lost that slip of paper in probably a week. My heart was broken. (There’s a happy ending here, though, so don’t worry. Thanks to social media, I now know how all of my school friends are doing these days!)
I had my notes confiscated by teachers
This one is the worst. Back when I was in school, before texting was a thing, we had to find creative ways to communicate. We would write heartfelt letters to our BFFs on lined paper, fold them up neatly, and slip ‘em to our besties between classes. Then, when we thought the teacher wasn’t looking, we’d pull them out and sneak glances at them between our lessons. Then we’d write our own letters back. And you know what? I got caught! My teacher spied me reading my note and took it from me. I was one of the lucky ones, though; I had classmates who were required to read their letters aloud in front of the entire class. (Gulp.)
Then and Now: Life After Internet
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the romanticism of how life used to be. It’s almost as though we all want to look back with this idyllic type of nostalgia and wax poetic about the simpler times. And sure, they were easier. Instead of spending hours on the computer, we’d go outside to play after school. If we got bored, we had to read a book or draw a picture. Regardless, though, the advent of the global web has come with many benefits. It’s accelerated learning, connected communities, and encouraged friendships. So while I’d never want to go back to how things used to be, I can still reflect upon them fondly…before returning to watching cat videos on my smartphone!