I’m not gonna pretend I would enjoy living without the internet and all the wonderful bounties it provides. Adorable cat videos! Amazon and Etsy! Insightful quizzes such as “Which Traditional German Breakfast Food Are You?”
The other day, though, I was scrolling through the Scary Mommy Confessional when I came upon this one:
It got me thinking about my life in the days before the internet. Yes, much of it sucked, like having to look things up in an actual encyclopedia and being unable to shop pantsless without risking arrest. But there are aspects of my pre-social media lifestyle that have a certain appeal, and I’m sure most people in my generation can relate.
We didn’t feel like everything had to be photographed.
Before Instagram, Snapchat, and everything else that makes use of a camera, I don’t recall feeling a pressing need to take a picture of my lunch or my freshly painted fingernails or the sunset. I just ate my lunch and admired my own nails and enjoyed the sunset.
We didn’t have such a need for public approval.
Why do we post these photographs? Because we want people to say how awesome our lunch and our nails and our sunsets look. Before, if one person had said in passing, “Wow, nice manicure!” I’d have been like “Hey, thanks!” and felt great for the rest of the day. Now if only one person gives me a “like,” I’m convinced that my nails actually look like ass and that one kind soul gave the photo a thumbs-up simply to spare me the agony of total likelessness.
We weren’t subjected to others’ shitty opinions.
I guess we’ve always been subjected to a random shitty opinion here and there, but mostly just from drunk relatives and the occasional know-it-all. Thanks to social media, though, I’m virtually pelted with said shit as I scroll innocently through my timeline looking for those time-lapse recipe videos. Through their own posts and the ones they’ve engaged with, I realize with a sinking feeling that people I know in person on a purely conversational level (and otherwise thought were cool) are actually racist or sexist or bigoted. Gah. I liked you when it was all just adorable puppy videos, Brenda.
We didn’t have such an epic time-suck.
Ever gone to check your email or your Facebook real quick and then suddenly it’s an hour later and you’re like, “What just happened?” Or congratulated yourself for getting to bed at a decent hour, then got caught up in your phone, and it’s midnight before you know it? I’m all too familiar with both of these scenarios. And exhausted because of it.
We weren’t exposed to so many horror stories.
Back in the ‘90s, I could go an entire day — an entire week — without reading a story that made me feel like bleaching my eyes or sequestering myself into a doomsday shelter or running to the nearest doctor for a diagnosis of a disease I’m sure I have.
We didn’t have to sift through “fake news” — or roll our eyes at people who posted it.
Before the internet, we all got our news from reliable outlets. We knew what fake news was: Those Enquirer magazines in the checkout lane that had headlines like, “I had Dracula’s baby!” These days, any asshole can publish “news,” and if it looks professional enough, people will buy it hook, line, and sinker — and even worse, share it. Because if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?
We didn’t have the opportunity to stalk.
If someone has dropped out of our lives, chances are there’s a good reason — like, I don’t know, they’re a dick — and we don’t need reminders of them, period, let alone to know what they had for lunch or what their fingernails look like. It was much easier to keep them out of our consciousness when their profile (and consequently, their life) wasn’t right there, set to public. Thank you, Facebook, for that handy “unfollow” button.
We didn’t have to compare ourselves constantly.
During gym class in high school, I was jealous of my classmate Becky, whose legs in her gym shorts were tan and toned and didn’t have those little dots (Becky with the Good Legs?). If we’d had social media posts back then, I’d have been jealous of Becky’s legs in a bathing suit, Becky’s legs in a dress, Becky’s legs climbing Mt. Everest, Becky winning the Legs of the Year award. Damn you, Becky.
We were never tagged in gawd-awful photos.
Back in the day, somebody might catch you with your eyes half-closed or your mouth half-open on a Polaroid, and it sucked, but at least it sucked privately. These days, you and your three chins and spinach-laden teeth can be tagged in a very public, very visible photo that gets a hundred “likes” before you can type “DELETE THIS!!! WTF?!”
Okay, so before the internet, I may have been embarrassingly behind on the latest eyebrow trends, and my life was devoid of Kermit-sipping-tea memes, but I can’t help but miss the old, pre-social-media me. The honest me who didn’t sit straight-faced while I send the “cry-laughing” emoji. The unhurried me who had time to tell someone to GTFO without using acronyms. The ignorance-is-bliss me who didn’t have to grapple with the fact that Aunt Bertha “liked” a Facebook page for cougars seeking hot young studs. The perfectly adequate me who didn’t even have Pinterest boards, let alone see them as a collection of good intentions that will never see the light of day. My life was simpler in so many ways.
Even if I did have to eat lunch without Instagramming it first.