Growing up in the 1980s, and being a young adult in the '90s, I came to realize (as did many of us) just how much our world was changing in a permanent way forever. I look back on the world I grew up in, and no matter how much I explain or try to show my children what it was like, I realize that they will never completely understand the world in which so many of us lived.
March 7-8 was national "unplug" day. It was a day that we as a society, are supposed to not touch electronics and focus on real life for a while. Clearly that must have been buried by the media because I didn't even know about it until I started researching for this article. Needless to say, it speaks volumes to where we are as a society, that we need to have a day dedicated to "no electronics."
As a child, when the weather was nice, I can remember eating breakfast and going out to play with my friends. Most children will never know what it's like to go outside to play from dawn until dusk, without having a parent call them on their mobile phone or worry about them. I actually make an effort to take my children to my father's farm for a week every year. We eat breakfast and they ask me what they should do, to which I respond, "Go out and play."
The first few times I told them to do so, they were a little shocked that they could just freely go play without having me hover over them. But they soon realized what a wonderful thing childhood freedom could be to wander around the farm, make forts, enjoy playing with the dogs, running through the tall grass, and laying in the shade. Things that all children should naturally do.
TVs and Cell Phones and Computers, Oh my!
Here are a few experiences that our children will never understand:
- Turning off a television without a remote control.
- Having to go to a library to do research.
- Using the yellow pages (on paper).
- Getting tangled in the phone cord while walking around the house.
- Using a rotary phone.
- Using a payphone.
- Having a pager.
- Using a camera that requires film (or using a Polaroid).
- Using a chalkboard in school.
- Having "eraser duty" after school.
- Having to rewind the video tape.
- Having to go to the video store to rent a video.
- Being able to find everything you need in the stores of your own town.
- Having to write a letter by hand.
- Having to use a typewriter.
- Listening to the static, 'boing,' 'pong,' 'boing' of dial up Internet.
- Rewinding a cassette tape with a pencil (come on, I know you've done it too).
- Getting something in the mail other than bills and junk mail.
- Using a paper map.
- Being able to walk down the street in the city and not being visible on hundreds of security cameras.
- Walk with your loved one to their gate at the airport and watch their plane take off.
- A world without texting, emoticons, downloads, uploads, browsers and operating systems.
What caused it all?
Ahhh... the ultimate question. Well, maybe not the ultimate question, but one worth thinking about. So, let's look at our list above and find out who's to blame:
- Turning off a television without a remote control. Lazy people
- Having to go to a library to do research. The need for current data
- Using the yellow pages (on paper). The need for current data
- Getting tangled in the phone cord while walking around the house. Too many injuries from tripping
- Using rotary phone. Lazy people
- Using a payphone. Mobile Phones
- Having a pager. Seriously? Did we really need pagers?
- Using a camera that requires film (or using a Polaroid). The need to get a picture right and be able to delete it "now."
- Using a chalkboard in school. People that don't like nails scratching on the blackboard
- Having "eraser duty" after school. Parents that don't like cleaning chalk dust off their kids clothes
- Having to rewind the video tape. DVDs
- Having to go to the video store to rent a video. Netflix
- Being able to find everything you need in the stores of your own town.Amazon.com
- Having to write a letter by hand. Emails
- Having to use a typewriter. IBM
- Listening to the static, "boing," "pong," "boing" of dial up Internet. Waiting four hours to see a website
- Rewinding a cassette tape with a pencil (come on, I know you've done it too). CDs
- Getting something in the mail other than bills and junk mail. Lazy people (okay, maybe email too)
- Using a paper map. Lazy people (And hey! GPS is cool!)
- Being able to walk down the street in the city and not be on hundreds of security cameras. Terrorists
- Walk with your loved one to their gate at the airport and watch their plane take off. Terrorists
- A world without texting, emoticons, downloads, uploads, browsers and operating systems. Terrorists, Lazy people and the ever increasing need for everything "now."
In the end, I'd say "Lazy people" won, brought in by a close second with "terrorists."
All joking aside, it's sort of sad that we've lost as much of our human element as we have. Worse yet, that our children will never know that more innocent world that we knew. But, we can make an effort to help them know that world, by:
- Getting them away from technology once in a while.
- Talking to them, in person.
- Teaching them the old and proven methods of map reading.
- Reading a real book, turning real paper pages once in a while.
- Making sure that they write letters and thank you cards once in a while (by hand).
- Forcing them to turn off the television by hand for you once in a while.