Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Back in the Day

Yesterday Julia and I were riding in the car. I forget her exact question, but my response was to describe to her what it was like to be a single 20-something independent woman with a cluster of good friends. She wanted to know what my social life was like when I was ... oh, about 24.

It was quite good!
Biloxi beach trip, late March, maybe 1987?
Julia keeps in touch with her friends via computer or cell phone. They text or skype. I told her to imagine her social life without any form of computer and no personal phone, just a landline house phone. Bemused, she asked how we planned things.

Bemused, I tried to remember. I think we planned ahead better. We contacted each other during the week and assumed we would do something on the weekend -- whoever was available. Was Wendy out of town? Did Beth have a date? Well, then Lee, Darlene, Sheila, Lissy, and I would hang out. Generally, most clusters of friends need: a driver, a house, a fun person, a money person. By the time we were in our early 20's, we all had jobs, cars, and apartments, and most of us had some cash, so we were capable of loads of fun. We didn't assume we could do anything at the last minute though. If you waited to the last minute to have fun with your friends on a Friday night, you were likely to be home alone.
watching a movie at Lee's apartment -
I'm in my loud and fun mood.
People planned house parties. A couple of weeks ahead, we'd hear by word of mouth that Wendy was having a Hawaiian luau in her backyard. That party would be the topic of conversation in our big group (about 50+ singles who were vaguely connected via the same church). By the time we all showed up at Wendy's, the anticipation was palpable. Everybody looked great. Romantic sparks were likely to fly. Somebody would start talking about the next event.

I remember one bizarre night when I had nothing to do on a Friday evening. Nothing!At the time, my roommate and I had no T.V. Personal computers did not exist in 1987. It creeped me out to be in my apartment with only books to read and a big stereo (complete with turntable, receiver, tape deck, and two massive speakers) for entertainment.

I miss those days. Life was quite real, tangible, tasty. Interactions were eye-to-eye. The food you saw was smelling good  on a plate in front of you, not sizzling on a facebook ad. TV, magazines, and movies existed, but TV was full of commercials, magazines were for teenagers and old people, and movies were only at the cinema. "Home" was just a place to sleep, store your clothes, and host an occasional get-together. All the fun happened elsewhere, with friends.

I miss those days. Guys had to work hard to get you on a date. There was less to do at home, and more to do elsewhere. Shopping for clothes wasn't an online experience; you went to McRae's with friends and giggled in the changing rooms. You spent hours driving around town in a car, checking out guys' houses that you had crushes on, strolling into the pizza parlor, sitting down, sipping a drink, driving some more. You squeezed into bench seats and sang along with the radio -- the radio! Everything took time. Time is valuable. So every interaction, every friendly exchange, had value. Life was slower because it took more time to do anything, but you savored it too.

I lived without the internet until I was about 36 years old. I lived without a smart phone until I was 51. An unconnected life feels normal to me, and I still view this machine as only a tool. It's a device, it's fun, and I can set it down if I need to. I don't think Julia and kids in her generation view their web-connected computers that way. An online life is deeply embedded in who they are.

The video below is a TED Talks by a woman who went off-line for a year. Later, she and her husband moved to rural Idaho to live off the electric grid with their three kids. She addresses an issue I hadn't considered:  Living an online life causes you to be addicted to the constant personal feedback and validation it gives. Online, you express yourself and people respond. They tell you your blog post is wonderful, or your profile pic is wonderful, or your instagram photos are wonderful. What if nobody ever told you that your expressions of yourself were wonderful? What if you had to satisfy yourself merely with the joy that the expression itself gives? Would that be enough?

It was enough for me when I wrote bad poetry in college. It was when I played the piano alone at night. It is for anybody who does his thinking and arguing internally, and his brilliance never escapes his own head. I don't want to think we've grown a whole generation of humans who suffer with the insecurity of needing constant online validation. Have we?


  1. When I was 24, I was married with two kids living in Scotland. : )

  2. It really is stunning, the changes in such a short time. I never would have thought of the 70s as representing a quieter, slower pace of life, but there you go . . . I met my husband when I was 18, and was so wrapped up in him, I don't think I had as much time with girlfriends. I'm making up for it now, fortunately.
    And I think the instant gratification is why I blog rather than finish my book. Hmm . . . food for thought, M.K.
    And, thank you for all your recent visits. I love to see a whole row of your comments in my inbox!

  3. Ooooh I liked this post,MK.Well written and great video of living the "Off Line" life. Much to consider, which I have already done many times. I have often thought about having it so I have no comments, but then I do love the inter action with the ladies and the friendships that are made through the comments.
    I enjoyed your photo's. :)

    I appreciate you and your faithful visits.

    Have a beautiful and blessed weekend ahead.

  4. This is WONDERFUL, M.K.!!! Yes, we have raised a generation that needs constant, instantaneous validation. A sad commentary on technology. A rich, full life and beautiful memories without it!

  5. Looks like you and your rowdy friends had a good time together. I was a mommy of 2 by 24 years old. Busy days.

  6. You make some excellent points, MK!
    Cute you! The photos are GREAT!


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