My son was punished earlier this week…we took away his iPhone and video games for two days. I thought by the end of the second day he was going to go absolutely bonkers from technology withdrawal. It rained yesterday so he couldn’t go outside and there was, according to him, “nothing on TV”.
With 400 channels, plus on Demand, I find that very hard to believe. Yet he sat, sulkily in the living room, watching Phineas and Ferb reruns, pining for his beloved iPhone and his connection to the outside world.
If I was parted from my iPhone for 48 hours, I must admit, at this point in my life, I’d be distressed. Technology has definitely enhanced our lives in ways we never imagined. I mean, I am sitting poolside while writing this and I won’t even have to move more than my fingertips to make this available for all of you to read when I’m done.
If you had told me that would be possible when I was his age, I would have thought you were nuts. After all, I was his age in the 80s.
When I was twelve, writing was either done with a paper and pen or on a typewriter. There was no back space. Once you hit the key, that letter was permanently stamped on your work. If you made a mistake, you had to pull out the sheet, white out the error, blow on it till it dried and pray you could line in up correctly when inserting it back in the typewriter.
I remember when they invented the erasable pen. I thought it was the greatest invention since the pen. Of course, my school work ended up smeared or the eraser would rip right through the paper.
Not to sound like an old fart, but that’s another thing. Doing school work. Ugh. Remember when you had a research paper to do? Did we Google the subject? Nope. You were either lucky enough to have a 26 volume set of encyclopedias in your house or you tromped down to the local library with your spiral notebook and four colored clicky pen to peruse the card catalog for the entire afternoon.
My kids don’t even have a clue what an encyclopedia is. One kid at school asked me if it was related to Wikipedia. Yeah, except a ton heavier and completely out of date most of the time. Well, not that Wikipedia is reliable, either.
These kids are so used to everything at their fingertips, at their demand. They have no idea what it’s like to wait all week for Saturday, the day your favorite cartoon is on, only to find out you have to go to your brother’s baseball game. Why wouldn’t you just DVR it? they would ask. Because, my dear spoiled children, DVRs haven’t been invented yet.
In fact, I remember vividly the day my father came home with our very first VCR. I was 10 and we stared at it, mouths open.You mean we can just tape a show and watch it later? You mean we could watch movies we missed in the movie theater? Back then if you didn’t see it in the movies or they didn’t televise it, you didn’t see it.
We couldn’t believe our good fortune. No longer would we miss our favorite shows!
We were completely deluded, though, because we only have 6 channels to record from. Cable was not yet available in every house and when it was, there was no remote. We had a ridiculous contraption the size of a shoe box that was connected to the TV. It reached about ten feet from the TV and we were beyond amazed. So amazed we broke it in a day switching all the channels.
Forget about a world where texting wasn’t invented yet. Cell phones weren’t even invented yet. That’s right. When you wanted to talk to a friend, you had to pick up the ugly yellow phone on the wall of the kitchen, dial your friend, pray their brother you had a crush on didn’t answer and then proceed to have a conversation in front of your siblings who would sit at the kitchen table, mocking you and writing down what you said in a notebook. Oh yeah, there was no privacy.
There was no “sexting” or lewd pics on Instagram. The closest thing you could get to privacy was if you wrote a note (yup, on paper with a pen). And even that was running the risk of being intercepted by some well meaning (ahem, busybody) adult.
When we wanted something, we had to wait. We learned patience. If you liked a song and couldn’t afford to go out and buy the whole album (yes, I said album), you sat in front of your radio with a tape recorder and waited. And waited. And waited until the song was played and you scrambled to hit play and inevitably your little sister would come storming into the room blabbing away just at that exact moment. If you were lucky, you’d get a recording. But then your tape player would chew up the tape and that would be the end of it.
My kids hear a song they like, they literally hit a button on the iPod and it is instantly transported into their ears. My daughter whines when it takes more than a minute to download. Pathetic.
And I hardly remember ever being bored, even though I didn’t have a gaming system. Well, we got one when I was like 14 and it had one controller which would get tangled in knots and we’d all fight for our turn.
Before then, we had board games and cards. We had an entire shelf in the basement stacked with games like Trouble, Scrabble and Clue. And we would play for hours. I remember playing marathon long games of Monopoly with my siblings. And each game was new experience every time. We didn’t have go out and buy a new $40 Monopoly when we beat the game. We just played again.
If you wanted to know what was going on in the world, you had to watch the news, which was only on ONCE a day. Or actually READ a newspaper. The only reason my kids know what a newspaper is is because they like the comics.
There was no constant media bombardment of what celebrity is sleeping with who and who had Botox and where the President is vacationing. Is that even really news? I mean, who really cares?
We missed people. If you lived farther than a bicycle ride distance from a friend, chances are, you didn’t see them over the summer. Relatives that lived in another state were ones you didn’t see until the holidays. Other than the occasional long distance phone call on Sunday night when the rates were lower (yeah, kids have NO clue what that means) you didn’t know what was going on in their lives. No Snapfish pictures, no Skype , no Facebook status updates.
If you went on a road trip to see the family in your 8 passenger station wagon, you better bring books or be prepared to play the license plate game all the way to Ohio. No TV monitor on the back of the seat, no headphones to listen to your favorite songs. Just your dad singing along to the Oldies station at the top of his lungs.
And God help you if he got lost…which he undoubtedly would because he had the book of maps propped up on his leg and the wind would blow the pages around when he cranked the window down to pay a toll and he would get confused. There was no Onstar or Mapquest to save him. You’d wander around for hours, looking for the interstate because he would NEVER stop and ask for directions.
Kids have it much easier but I’m not sure they have it better. They’re missing talking to people and hearing their emotions. They can’t spell to save their lives. They don’t know what to do when they go outside without a ball or friends to play with. Sadly, the whole concept of imagination is lost on them. They’re more likely to get carpal tunnel syndrome than break a leg falling out of a tree house.
I feel sorry for them, I really do. I’d love to go back to some of those carefree days and just enjoy things for what they were. No worrying about who is tweeting about you or if your profile pic is cute enough. No taking selfies with your phone, no wondering who is going to check out your pictures of your lunch and what their comments will be.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am being paged. My daughter needs me the to put in the code so she can get another crappy app for her iPad.