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77 percent of Gen Xers want to go back to the pre-internet days. Here are 9 things we miss.

Gen X wants to go back more than anyone.

gen x nostalgia, millennial nostalgia, 1990s

A box full of casette tapes.

A new Harris poll reported by Fast Company found that older Millennials and Gen Xers are the age group that would most like to return to a time before the internet and smartphones. Seventy-seven percent of Americans aged 35 to 54 wanted to return to the pre-internet era compared to 63% of those aged 18 to 34 and 60% of those over 55.

What’s interesting about the poll was that regardless of age, more people wanted to return to a simpler time when we weren’t connected 24/7. It’s like we ran headfirst into a technological revolution without considering whether we should. Now, we have some regrets.

That’s why it’s not shocking that multiple scientific studies had found that today’s mental health crisis just happens to coincide with the adoption of smartphone technology.


There have been a lot of gains that humanity has made since the dawn of the internet. But there have also been a lot of sacrifices. A lot of the things we’ve lost have been those that made us happy and carefree.

Here are 9 things that people miss about the pre-internet world.

Less exposure to negativity

The psychological concept of negativity bias shows us that the human mind is obsessed with focusing on adversity at the expense of the positive, creating an unbalanced worldview. The internet age exposes us to a barrage of constant negativity, whether that’s crazy comments on social media, a steady diet of negative stories from the news media or continuous coverage of a political climate that’s become more divisive and adversarial.

We didn't have to defend our sanity from being exposed to this level of anger and fear in the pre-internet era.

Living for the moment, not the like

It seems that many activities people engage in these days aren’t for the experience in and of itself but for the opportunity to take a photo and share it on social media. But there’s a big difference between enjoying the moment and filming it. When 20,000 phones go up because everyone wants to get a video of Taylor Swift singing “Anti-Hero,” are those people really enjoying the moment or missing it because they’re focused on documenting it to share on Facebook later that night?

No 24-hour news cycle

The 24-hour news cycle started in 1980 when CNN launched on cable TV networks nationwide. But that seems like the Stone Age compared to today when people obsess over the news and follow it as it happens on social media, especially Twitter. While staying informed is important, things have gone out of balance, leading people to be addicted to the news. Studies show that people who obsessively follow the news are more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety and physical ill health.

Further, in the world of social media, we don’t just follow the news; as we comment, like, and share stories, we help disseminate it, making it part of our social identities.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could go back to turning on the national news at 6:30 pm every night, finding out what’s happening in the world in 30 minutes and then turning it off until the next day?

Physical music

It seems that people’s attitudes toward music have really changed in the streaming era. In the pre-streaming era, it cost $12.99 for a new CD or a vinyl LP, but you cherished it more. You were invested in the music.

“With streaming, things were starting to become quite throwaway and disposable,” Finlay Shakespeare, a musician and audio engineer, told The Guardian. “If I didn’t gel with an album or an artist’s work at first, I tended not to go back to it.” But music as an art form is designed to grow on people after multiple listens. How many CDs have you bought that you didn’t like at first, and then after three or four listens, it really grew on you?

Privacy

Ever have one of those nights where you went out with your friend or significant other and asked them not to "post that we’re here”? You may have fibbed with other people about your plans and didn’t want to get caught by posting about it online. That’s the world we live in today. It’s easy for anyone to know almost anything about you and how to get in touch. It’s not just because we post things on social media; there are countless databases online where people can learn almost anything about you.

It’s a far cry from living in the ‘80s when the only way to know about someone was if they appeared in the newspaper or the phonebook. Now, if someone wants to find you, they can, and it’s a little scary.

Photographs

These days people take hundreds, maybe thousands of photos every year, many of which they never look at. Before smartphones, every photo you took was precious, and it could take up to two weeks to get developed by the Fotomat. Today's technology makes taking pictures and sharing them with friends much easier. But how many do we actually print out and frame in our homes? Even though we have all of these photos, they are all trapped in a digital vault, and maybe, just one day, we’ll frame a few.

Focus

When was the last time you felt you could spend two hours working on something uninterrupted without being distracted by a text, ping, Slack message, Facebook update, SPAM call, pop-up on your computer monitor, or a compelling desire to stop what you’re doing and scroll through Twitter? If someone from 1995 were frozen in time and woke up with today’s level of distraction and digital harassment, they’d probably run to go live in the forest. But, like frogs in water that are slowly coming to a boil, the change has been so gradual that we didn’t realize that we were creating a world where focus now comes at a premium.

Less comparison

Social media has taken social comparisons to a whole new level. As humans, we naturally compare ourselves to our peers, whether looking up at those doing better or down at those who don’t seem to be faring so well. But in the age of social media, we see a constant stream of people getting to do the things we wish we were doing and buying the things we wish we had. They’re on vacation while we’re at work. They have a new house, and we’re in an apartment. Their kids are excelling at sports and ours will barely leave the house.

The problem is that social media presents a funhouse mirror view of other people’s lives because they only tend to share complimentary things. You don’t hear about people’s financial problems, marriage difficulties, or see if their kids get bad grades. You only see the good stuff.

In-person shopping

The poll that kicked off this article stated that 77% of those between the ages of 35 and 54 would like to return to an era before smartphones and the internet. That was a time when if you wanted a new shirt, you had to go to the mall to buy one. Obviously, with Amazon, things are so much easier now. But the world where we got our friends together and roamed the mall looking for a shirt and, along the way, bumped into our crushes and wolfed down a Cinnabon provided so many social opportunities that we’re missing out on these days. Convenience is great, but it’s no substitute for living.

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