Pretty much everything you need to succeed in life these days you can fit in your pocket — it's called your smartphone. But although useful skills your parents had that are still worth learning today can pretty much all be done on your phone, that doesn't necessarily mean they should be. You may not realize how smartphone dependent you are until you find yourself without one; indeed, if you've ever lost your digital BFF (or dropped it in the toilet — surprisingly common), then you know how helpless it can feel when you realize that you literally don't know anyone's phone number. Oops.
Back in the olden days — you know, when your parents had to walk five miles to school uphill both ways — there were no smartphones, and computers were a luxury versus a staple. Your parents did things the old-fashioned way. They learned how to read maps, memorized phone numbers, and found information in books at the library using an actual card catalog versus on Google.
Lauren Graham has a name for this old-timey throwback person, Old Lady Jackson. In her 2016 book, Talking As Fast I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between, Graham talks about how she created her Old Lady Jackson alter-ego for times when she finds herself waxing poetic to younger friends and co-stars about days gone by — you know, back when cars had actual keys, the most exciting thing to own was a VCR, and the word "followers" didn't have quite the same connotation it has today.
Not everything from the past is obsolete, and these eight skills your parents had that are still worth learning today can help you survive during the zombie apocalypse, in the wilderness, or if you simply lose your phone in the urban jungle.
1. Memorizing Phone Numbers
I remember the first and second phone numbers I had as a kid. I also remember my childhood best friend's phone number, and my grandparent's phone number. However, if my life depended on it I could not recite, from memory, my mom's phone number because she got a new one several years ago, and instead of learning it, I just assigned it to her contact details in my phone.
Researchers are calling this "digital amnesia." A global study by Kaspersky Lab found that while almost 50 percent of participants could recall childhood phone numbers, 71 percent didn't know their children's current phone numbers, and 91 percent of Americans admitted they rely on the internet to function as an extension of their brain. Additionally, a majority of those surveyed said they did not have their phone backed up anywhere, so if something happened to it, all of those phone numbers (not to mention pictures and videos) would be lost for good.
The bottom line? Back up your phone. Print your contact list, and store a paper copy somewhere. Put your brain to work, and commit your most important phone numbers to memory.
2. Reading A Map
Your family vacations growing up probably included at least one parent or guardian pulling out their trusty paper map to plan the best route for your annual road trip. These days, you most likely rely on an app to get you to where you're going. However, have you ever thought about what you would do if your apps failed you? A survey revealed that most people younger than 25 can not read maps.
I have to preface what I'm about to say next with a confession: I have never been able to read maps. I am directionally challenged in the worst way. I will always go opposite of the direction I should be going. I literally don't know how anyone got around in Los Angeles before maps apps. People tell me it was something called The Thomas Guide that every person kept in their car — although since it includes maps, The Thomas Guide would probably be useless to me regardless.
Now, there is nothing worse than being lost, and even though I am hopeless with maps, I do believe that everyone should have one. Even if you can't read it yourself, you can always ask someone to help you.
If you want to learn how to read a map, this site can help.
3. Backing Up Your Car Without A Camera
I hate what's happened to cars. (Now I sound like Old Lady Jackson.) My first car would be considered a death trap by today's standards. It had no power steering, and only one side view mirror on the driver's side, but it forced me to learn to drive in less than ideal conditions, and I have never been in an accident. In today's world, cars can practically drive themselves, which I don't necessarily think is a positive thing.
I get that cars added back-up cameras because drivers were running over things, but I personally don't like them. Backing up your car safely without needing to rely on an additional piece of equipment to do so is a skill we should really all learn. I've only had a back-up cam the last five years, and most of the time I don't even look at it. I don't want to become dependent, because I do know people who literally can't back out of their driveway or a parking space without it.
By 2018, all new cars are mandated to include back-up cams, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't learn how to do it the old-fashioned way. If you can't back up your car without a camera, practice with a friend in an empty parking lot.
4. Using A Compass
So you've probably read news reports of people who get lost in the woods, can't get a cell phone signal, and are found five years later at a make-shift campsite in... uh... less than ideal condition. What's even more heartbreaking is that in many cases these people were less than a mile away from where they needed to be, but because they weren't prepared, they couldn't orient themselves and find their way to safety.
Don't let this happen to you. In addition to being able to read a map, you should also have a compass. A real one, not just the one on your phone. If you're lost, and need to determine which direction to walk in to get back on track, this is an invaluable tool that could even save your life.
Check out this video to learn now to use a compass.
5. Touch Typing
Most kids these days learn to type before they're in school, but they're probably not learning to do it the right way. When I was in high school I had to take a typing class that taught me how to properly position my fingers on the keyboard, and required me to type without looking at the keys, which means I had to memorize where the letters were located.
So, why should you learn how to do this? Touch typing is much faster than the "hunt and peck" typing method — using your index fingers to hit each key while looking at the keyboard instead of the screen. Since modern life pretty much revolves around computers, you can make your life a whole lot easier by learning to touch type. It can improve focus, productivity, and posture so you won't be all hunched over when you're older.
6. Writing A Letter
Letter writing has already been largely replaced by email, and email is currently in the process of being replaced by texting. But while they may be much more convenient, these digital forms of communication lack the personal touch of a handwritten letter. Until fairly recently, exchanging letters was a common practice for staying in touch with friends and family across the miles.
While letter writing doesn't get the instant response of email or text (you know, because the letter has to travel through the mail), that's actually a good thing. In my early 20s, I regularly exchanged letters with a good friend who had moved to another state, I still have most of those letters.
Getting a letter from him in my mailbox every few months was exciting, and I enjoyed reading what he was up to across the country. What's more is that I can go back and reread those letters at any time. While you can also reread emails, it really doesn't tap into the same level of nostalgia as a letter does, and emails you receive are likely much less personal. Believe it or not, this is because writing by hand uses a different part of your brain than typing does. Also, there's nothing more romantic than receiving a handwritten letter.
7. Making A Photo Album
You've probably seen these large books on the shelves at your parents and grandparents house that are filled with pictures. These are called photo albums. Back in the olden days, people took photographs, and either dropped the film off somewhere, or developed it themselves. Part of the fun was picking up your photos and having no idea what you were going to see (before digital cameras). Even more fun was finding an old roll of film and having no idea what was on it until you had it developed. You then selected the best images for inclusion in a photo album.
If you're like me, you take photos, upload them to social media, and promptly forget about them. Unless you're really disciplined about backing up your photos into online albums, you don't have a real place to go and visit all of your memories.
My mom made me a photo book for Christmas one year, and it is my most favorite gift I have ever received. There's something about holding a tangible piece of history that feels so much more significant than scrolling through photos online. I also love looking at other people's photo albums.
The good news is that you can still make photo albums today by printing out your photos at home, or at your local drug store. Trust me, it's worth it, and you'll be glad you have a place to visit your memories 10, 20, or 30 years from now.
8. Talking On The Phone
Phones were originally invented for verbal communication, but I bet if you look at your cellphone bill, there is a pretty significant gap in your text to talk ratio. Remember when cellphone companies used to sell plans by the minute? They had to stop because with the advent of texting, most people stopped talking. I will be the first to admit that I hate talking on the phone, but this wasn't always the case. In junior high and high school, and before texting, I talked on the phone quite a bit.
And, as a reporter, I had to call a lot of people I didn't know, and I didn't think twice about it. These days, many Millennials have phone anxiety because they simply didn't grow up in the phone culture that dominated the 20th century. While I agree that talking on the phone is painful, it is something you should be able to do without having a meltdown.
Growing up always being able to find the answer to anything, or having time to mull over your response to an email or text, can make the idea of having an impromptu phone conversation terrifying. But, putting yourself in these situations can make you more independent, more resilient, increase your ability to think on your feet, and make you better able to communicate with others — all important skills for success. Check this out if you want to improve your phone skills.
While we're better off without some things your parents complain have gone the wayside (like VHS tapes), others are still pretty relevant, can make you smarter, and could even save your life. You can learn how to do some of these things in online adulting classes, because the struggle is real.