People like to say that the world was a simpler place before all the technology we have today.
And to some extent it was.
The biggest technology issues I had as a teenager were telling people to take me off a group text. because their emoji wars put me over my 250 text message limit or frantically clicking cancel when I accidentally pressed the Internet button on my flip phone.
I can’t imagine having to navigate high school with six or seven different social media platforms and facing a daily onslaught of virtual peer pressure. Old fashioned face-to-face peer pressure was enough for me.
And while I sometimes wish my own kids enjoyed as many of the screen-free activities I did as a child, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love technology (albeit different kinds of technology) as much as them.
As a directionally-challenged individual (aka perpetually lost), Google Maps is a godsend. As a working mom, Amazon Prime is the ultimate convenience, and because I can watch the Amazon truck get closer and closer to my house on the app, I know that my package has arrived before the porch pirates do. As a self-professed introvert, the self-check out speaks to my soul. As a teacher, technology has opened up all kinds of new opportunities to learn, create, and collaborate. I carry in my pocket a device that has thousands of family photos, every song that ever existed, the most updated news, and I can shoot little birds through the air into big green pigs any time I want.
But while I’d never voluntarily give up the conveniences and comforts of that little rectangle in my pocket, I do miss three pre-technology realities.
- Signing a check-out card in the back of a library book: For those of you who have only known a world of books with bar codes, there used to be envelopes in the back of books that held cards you would sign when you checked out a book. I remember the excitement of checking out a book and seeing a familiar name. A friend’s name was like an instant recommendation. If it was someone you looked up to, you instantly felt twice as cool yourself. Better yet, if your crush had checked out that book, it was a little secret connection you had. The check-out card added an extra layer of fun to reading.
- Photo albums: I realize that photo albums still exist and that companies like Shutterfly make a ton of money selling them, but when photos were taken using film and had to be developed, it just seemed more natural to bring your envelope of photographs home and put them right into a photo album. My parents have shelves and shelves of photo albums, and one of my favorite comforts is to curl up in an armchair with an armful of these books. Now all of our photos live on our phones or “in the cloud. How often do we sit down together to scroll through them?
- Mail: I have several friends who are pros at remembering to send birthday and holiday cards. (I am not one of those people.) But nowadays, most of my communication with friends (especially during the pandemic) is through text message. Now, for an introvert like me, I much prefer text messages over phone calls, but, in my opinion, old fashioned snail mail trumps all. I miss filling out postcards for family and friends while on vacation and receiving letters from friends I met at camp. The boxes of notes from my best friend in high school would no doubt have just been text messages today, and while it’s unlikely that I’d curl up on the couch one afternoon and fondly scroll through them all, I’ve pulled out those boxes many times and reminisced about what it was like to be 16 years old.
I think the lesson in all of this is most eloquently expressed by entrepreneur Matt Mullenweg who said, “Technology is best when it brings people together.” When I first started teaching in a school with 1:1 chromebooks, it was tempting to use as much technology as possible. After all, when you have a shiny new toy, you want to use it as much as possible! But the best lesson I learned from our media specialist was about using technology purposefully. The same goes for technology outside of the classroom. Sometimes a postcard is better than a text message. Sometimes a printed photo is more special than one on your phone. And as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes a phone call is better than an email.
But nothing will ever top Google maps. I’d literally be lost without it.
going one full day without technology! What kinds of technology did you miss the least?
Find a way to use technology purposefully to spread kindness into the world.