As a young girl, I never preoccupied my mind with what others were doing outside of my home and my “social bubble.” Our phone was on a party line, my family didn’t have television and internet was slow to reach into my corner of the world. In those days, you relied on the radio, your mailman, plus friends and family for “outside” news.
Back then I didn’t concern myself with what was happening outside of my world. And while my dad was probably up-to-date on politics and the news, it didn’t permeate our home.
I grew up in a time when people lived in the moment, when folks actually relied on one another for friendship and companionship. And as a child, I played with siblings and friends. Not a screen.
In those days, people spent less time on the couch and more time interacting with one another in person. It wasn’t abnormal to invite someone over for dinner. To be involved with organizations, clubs or church groups where connections could be made and relationships could grow and blossom.
It was different world than the one we have today.
When someone had a question, you mulled it over between the two of you and debated about what the answer could be. And if you really wanted to know, there were books on your bookshelf called the encyclopedia or the dictionary.
If kids wanted entertainment, they played “make believe” with one another and used their imaginations to create a story they could live in. They also played active games outdoors with one another like freeze tag, hide-and-seek or kick-the-can. Or just spent time playing with the dog.
If adults wanted to read, they’d crack open a book or browse the newest edition of their favorite magazine. When music was desired, there were tape players, the radio and your own two hands.
News traveled slower, but the special thing about the newspaper was the fact that folks got to sit down and take a quiet moment for themselves. Without popup ads or distractions.
When you wanted to buy (or sell) something, Nickel Ads were the best place to find (or move) a cow, horse or tractor. Shucks, in those days you could actually place a “Dog for Sale” ad without the entire nation getting on your case for (gasp) daring to sell a dog!
When you saw someone in those days, there was something to talk about. There were perspectives to be shared and heard, not through screens or apps, but from the tip of a person’s tongue while taking in their tone, expression and body language.
They say we’re living in the modern age of marvels and miracles.
But you know what?
Sometimes our modern marvels make me want to run!
Perhaps it’s because (even though I’m in my early 30’s) I experienced something different, simple and beautiful. In my heart, I long for the quiet days of the past when the world, though still tumultuous, was a quieter place. When all the news couldn’t reach our ears in such rapid succession.
I miss the days when there wasn’t the option of accessing unlimited information.
My soul craves the days when “online communication” wasn’t a thing. A time when people shared thoughts and even disagreed with each other while looking that person in the eyes, not over the world-wide web where they could easily forget to treat others with dignity and respect. I miss the days when we had to rub shoulders with other people who disagreed with us, and learned to be ok with it.
Something deep within me longs for the time when it was necessary to be in the presence of humans if you wanted to be involved with anyone else at all.
There are days when I wonder if our modern marvels are truly that marvelous and wonderful? Do they really benefit our lives that much? And I often find myself asking if it’s really worthwhile.
Are our modern marvels worth having in my home, if it distracts me from living a life I’ll be proud of when I’m old and gray? Is it worthwhile, if I constantly put out emotional energy trying to keep “screen time” under control? If it sucks valuable time I could be using elsewhere? Learning? Helping? Being in (actual) relationship with other people?
In spite of the fact that I can’t return to the past, there’s a huge part of me that wants to go back.
Deep within me, I’m haunted by the idea that perhaps I would live a better and more meaningful life if I booted modern technology out of my home. If I took a baseball bat to my screens, subscriptions and digital phones.
I’m haunted by the idea that when I’m an old woman, I’ll look back on my life and wish I’d spent less time letting the “screen” make gestures at my need for connection. That I’d given more time to making personal connections with those in my home and community.
So what if I embraced simpler days? Quieter days? Radio and newspaper, dinner sharing, dog selling, dictionary and encyclopedia using, in person type of days?
Would I have regrets? Or would I have lived a better life because of it?