Remember life before the internet? | Tacoma Daily Index

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

What have we lost because of the internet?

The internet, or the people who profit from it, often deliberately sought to replace many aspects of our everyday life.

From work to travel to shopping to entertainment to crime, nothing is as it was, and has been for many decades, if not far longer.

What should we attempt to reclaim?

From infants to senior citizens, we all need, even crave, physical contact with life experiences, from cooking to walking to building or creating things.

A Zoom meeting is nothing like an actual face to face meeting.

Our technology, and our use of it, at its most basic should make us more human, not less.

Those endless digital chirps and beeps from literally anywhere in the world, continually disrupt and disturb us and keep us from being fully present – ​​or even focused where we actually are.

How many of us have online “friends” we have never met – and have no intention of meeting?

Privacy, or anything like it, has been long gone.

We cast a digital “shadow” with every purchase, photograph and, of course, everywhere we carry our favorite device.

Calling

Remember when a phone was just a phone?

In the old, pre-smartphone days, a phone call went to, ahem, a phone that was physically attached to a wall or a building.

And a phone was a family or home phone – not a phone to or for an individual.

Most homes had a phone in a central area – living room or kitchen mostly.

A phone call, even without a speaker-phone, was a public, or at least a shared experience.

The most common conversations started with “What are you doing?” instead of the current “Where are you?”

Most uses of the phone now are quiet – texting for example.

But hearing one-sided conversations in public has become all too common.

Overheard arguments and romantic break-ups have become a standard aspect of our public experience.

News/information/data

Newspapers and news magazines have pages that sit still, with no glowing lights or pop-up ads – and no batteries.

And a physical format, like a book or magazine, has finite space – as opposed to the, it seems, infinite nature of what the internet presents to us.

Do we need near-constant updates on every conceivable disaster and catastrophe around the world?

Do we need to see or hear deranged ravings of conspiracies and the lunatic fringe of every spectrum?

Or even the most paranoid delusions of our neighbors via “Next door” among other sites?

We can “learn” how to do anything via a YouTube video. But how many of us know how to do anything without it?

Doomscrolling

Ever wake up in the middle of the night and look at your phone and find yourself sleepily transfixed by catastrophes of strangers thousands of miles away?

That middle of the night screen time won’t help you sleep better.

Could you imagine explaining this experience to a previous generation?

I left my phone!

How many times have you been on your way somewhere and realized that you left your phone somewhere?

That is a state of panic impossible to describe to someone a decade or so ago.

A generation ago everyone knew where their phone was – it was attached to a wall back home.

Being out of touch

Back in the old pre-internet days, one could go for a walk, or even a long vacation, and be completely out of touch – from spammers and work and family members.

Sometimes I go for a walk or bike ride, or even a social event and deliberately leave my phone at home.

If that comes up, and it almost always does, people are horrified – it’s as if I left a vital organ behind.

Get lost

GPS on every phone is a life-saver. But it has also murdered our sense of direction and our ability to get our bearings in any setting from wilderness to urban center. And the ability to read maps.

Paper maps have guided us human for centuries, if not more, but suddenly we have lost our ability (or inclination) to use them.

Many of us can barely make our way down the street without a device to guide us

Work

It would be easy to make the argument that it was not computers that changed the workplace – and work itself – but internet access.

Computers by themselves allowed us to store, use and access information vastly more quickly and efficiently than ever before.

But the internet offered more. Much more. The internet allows us access to information – and lunatic ravings and unhinged and unscrupulous theories and fantasies and outright deception and manipulations from anywhere – or any bias or deception – in the world.

Do we care about anything? Do we know anything?

In pre-internet days we might read a book (or more than one) about a topic and have an informed, committed opinion on any issue.

But thanks to social media we can “like” a posting or meme. And five minutes later completely forget what we “liked”.

What, in the age of the internet do we really “know” or care about?

Archives

In the pre-internet days, generation after generation left behind photographs and documents, from hand-written letters to receipts and private journals that gave future researchers and family historians a glimpse of the daily habits and recorded thoughts of ancestors long gone.

In the internet age, digital records are locked into platforms.

Written records, even those centuries old, are still accessible to any who can read.

Who uses cash? Who physical shops?

Crypto-currencies, online shopping, video bingeing, imagine going back in time and trying to explain any of it to a generation no longer among the living.

Life before…

I’m old enough to remember life before the internet.

I’m also old enough to remember what we thought/imagined/hoped/feared what the internet would do to and for us.

I’m of the generation of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and shared many of their visions of what the internets could do for us.

We assumed that “access” and “connectivity” would confirm our shared humanity, and that peace—and truth—would prevail.

We had assumed that deception and manipulation would be immediately exposed and discredited – not embraced and enshrined in law and policy.

We imagined an immensity and even an entirely new “age” but few us, even in our darkest dystopian fantasies thought that the internet, in turn, would create us in its own image.

Whether positive or negative, a world and way of living has been left behind and, as long as we have a good signal, lost forever.

But if the power ever goes out…

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