13 Things You Did With Your Time Before The Internet
It’s a question I often find myself asking: What on earth did we do with ourselves all the time before we had 24/7 access to the Internet? In some ways, it’s a little horrifying; the fact that I actually have trouble remembering the things we did with our time before the Internet speaks not only to how quickly time passes, but also to how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking that things have always been done a certain way. It’s a common pattern for many of us: We wake up; we check our email; we get to work; we check our email again; we spend a little time on social media; we do our jobs, which probably involve a lot of time on the Internet; we head home; we watch Netflix; and so on, and so forth. But sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that it wasn’t always this way… and that it doesn’t have to be now, either.
About that last point: Many of us still actively partake in the activities we used to fill our time in the pre-Internet era today—and honestly, I think I could probably stand to do so a little more. It’s not just for the nostalgia factor, either, although that’s certainly part of it — it’s because unplugging is actually pretty good for us. The effects not only of being connected all the time, but also parked in front of an electronic device all the time, are well documented: Everything from tech neck to FOMO can plague us if we’re not using our technology responsibly, and while I don’t mean to shake my finger at anyone, we kind of owe it to ourselves not to become slaves to our machines.
I used to love doing these 13 things when I was a kid; they’d keep me entertained for hours. Maybe it’s worth revisiting a few of them a little more frequently.
1. Make It A Blockbuster Night
OK, so technically I never made it a Blockbuster night, because my tiny Massachusetts hometown did not actually have a Blockbuster. We did, however, have two independently owned video stores, and they were the best. Instead of cruising Netflix, watching the first three minutes of something, and then deciding that we actually wanted to watch something else, we cruised the aisles and made our decisions almost wholly based on the box art for the VHS tapes lining the shelves.
2. Get Your Multi-Player Fix At The Arcade
Before the advent of high-speed Internet, playing video games online with all your friends was unfathomable. As long as you could get a ride, though, it was pretty easy to meet up at the arcade with a boatload of quarters and take on the Shredder with all your pals.
3. Read The Encyclopedia
I’m serious. Nowadays, we just Google whatever we want to know, and we all know how easy it is to get sucked into the black hole that is Wikipedia for hours on end. But although these things seem like uniquely technology-based activities, we had analog versions, too: Picking a random volume of the encyclopedia, opening it up to a random page, and then reading about something we had no idea existed before that very moment. I would also file picking a random topic from the card catalog at the library and reading as much as you could about it under the same heading. I mean, I realize that I’m a huge, huge nerd — but learning is fun!
4. Have A Three-Way Call With Your Best Friends
If you were lucky enough to have a phone in the house that could manage it, that is. But hey, before we had Google Hangouts or Skype, three-way calls were the best.
5. Read A Book
Or lots of books. All the time. That was me as a kid — I learned early on that as long as I had a book around, I’d never be bored. It’s why I still have a habit of bringing something to read with me literally everywhere I go. Also, libraries are still the best.
6. Write A Journal Or Diary
Funny how our journals and diaries used to hold our innermost thoughts — you know, the ones we would never, ever share with the world — while today’s equivalent, social media, pretty much has us broadcasting all those innermost thoughts for the entire Internet to see.
7. Make Up Stories With Your Action Figures, Dolls, And Stuffed Animals
When your favorite TV show was on hiatus, you couldn't even go back and watch old episodes on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime; the only way to get your fix was to make up new stories of your own starring all its characters. This activity also probably served as your gateway to fan fiction later on.
8. Listen To The Radio
Oh, to be a in a pre-Spotify world.
9. Write To Your Pen Pal
When we were kids, getting mail addressed to us was always a Big Deal. Later on, getting email became a Big Deal and our love of snail mail fell by the wayside. Now, getting actual mail delivered to your mailbox that isn’t bills? It’s a Big Deal again. It all comes full circle.
10. Leaf Through Your Favorite Magazine
Whether you were a Zillions kid or a YM one (or both, and a whole lot more!), you lived for the arrival of each new issue every month. Now, you just check your favorite websites daily instead.
11. Three Words: Board Game Night
Board game night is still a good idea, as far as I’m concerned — but much like the whole arcade thing, our board game nights of yesteryear were always strictly analog. Not a fan of the classics? There’s a whole wealth of fantastically creative tabletop games out there; check out old episodes of TableTop for some ideas. (And yes, I realize that there is a certain amount of irony in pointing people towards a web series for ideas about activities to do that don’t involve the Internet. Work with me, here.)
12. Run Around Outside
Still a good idea. Always a good idea. As long as it’s not, you know, hailing chunks of ice the size of golf balls or something. You might want to stay inside if that’s the case.
Let’s face it: We’re all guilty of Interneting in bed when we should be sleeping. Remember when that wasn’t a problem? (Although to be fair, those of us who now Internet in bed probably read books under the covers with flashlights when weren’t supposed to, so maybe it’s all really one in the same.)