Things Technology Has Robbed From Us

I like to think that, despite being (late) middle-aged, I am pretty up with technology. I blog. I’m on Instagram. I have loads of the latest apps, some of which I use. According to my iPhone, I spend a stupid amount of the day on ‘screen time.’ I love the way technology has enhanced my life (with a particular shout-out to Audible, Spotify and Netflix), but there are some things technology has stolen from us that I really, really miss. Here they are, in no particular order:

Slamming down the phone

I love smart phones. Like a millennial, my iPhone is surgically attached to my hand. I have mild panic attacks at the idea of running out of battery. But I still miss old-fashioned telephones. I miss putting my finger in the dial hole, and that little noise it made when you release it. I miss twirling the coiled cable round in my fingers. And I miss the satisfying heft of the receiver in my hand.

But, most of all, I miss the ability to SLAM IT DOWN IN ANGER. Or frustration. Or just to make a point. I know you can still ‘hang up’ on an iPhone, but just pressing that little end call icon has nothing like the same impact – on you or on the person on the other end of the call. You don’t get the thunk of the receiver hitting the cradle. They don’t get the whiny insult of the dialling tone. Sure, you can throw your phone across the room à la Naomi Campbell, but unless you’re as rich as she is, it’s an expensive point to make.

The TV Times

I love the fact that I can watch the best TV shows whenever, and wherever, it’s convenient. I like being able to binge-watch a whole series of Killing Eve or Fleabag over just a few days. But I really, really miss appointment-to-view TV.

It is very, very rare that we sit down as a family to watch the same show at the same time. This makes me rather sad, as some of my most vivid childhood memories are of watching shows like It’s a Knockout, The Two Ronnies and The Generation Game as a family. All of us yelling out “Don’t forget the cuddly toy!” at the person doing the conveyor belt challenge and laughing at The Phantom Raspberry Blower of London Town (anybody else, or just me?) I’m not sure that memories of watching Stranger Things in your bedroom on your phone, while your brother plays Fortnite and your sister watches PewDiePie playing Minecraft on YouTube will have the same resonance.

When the whole nation saw the same programmes simultaneously, there was that wonderful feeling of bonding, of joint anticipation and then the joy of sharing our experiences in the school canteen or over the water cooler at work. Who shot JR? Will Ange ditch Dirty Den? Who is number one on Top of the Pops?

And who can forget the bumper double-edition of the TV Times at Christmas, and the family debates over which films we’d watch on Christmas Day?

Boredom

My generation spent an awful lot of our childhoods saying I’m bored! to our despairing parents. Our kids rarely do that, because they can fill every spare minute with some sort of technology. In fact, they become so unused to boredom, that taking their technology away becomes a huge battle-ground.

But boredom, in some ways, is good. It is in those moments when you have absolutely nothing else to do that you come up with ideas, you solve problems, you invent games and stories and notice the wonder of the world around you.

Steven Spielberg says “Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.”

We need more boredom, or we will have less magic.

Photo Albums

I know it’s possible to print out your digital photos and stick them in a proper album with hand-written captions, but who actually does that any more? I keep meaning to, but the more time passes and the backlog builds up, the more insurmountable a task it becomes.

It’s lovely having all your recent photos to hand, so that you can shove them in the face of the unsuspecting stranger when they ask about your children, or your last holiday, but it really doesn’t beat the thrill of turning the heavy pages of a leather-bound album and laughing at the stupid fashions and lopped off heads.

Do you remember the excitement of going to collect your newly-developed photos from Boots? The anticipation of seeing if any of the shots were as good as you remembered them? Of picking out the handful of the best ones, sticking them reverently on the page, and writing the names underneath for posterity? A Facebook memory just doesn’t have the same power.

Proper maps

Angelina Jolie said “Anytime I feel lost, I pull out a map and stare. I stare until I have reminded myself that life is a giant adventure, so much to do, to see.” (Then she sticks in a pin and goes to adopt another child).

I have to confess, Google Maps is one of my most-used apps. I never feel lost, wherever I am in the world.

But isn’t feeling lost, then finding yourself, one of life’s most satisfying achievements? There is something lovely about unfolding a proper map and working out where you are in relation to everything else. Or even just revelling in being lost, and discovering people and places you’d never have found on the beaten track.

Back in the nineties, whenever I discovered someone who’d recently moved to London, I’d gift them a copy of the London A-Z. It was symbolic. In that little book lay the key to everything – to all of London’s many mysteries and promises.

The little blue dot of Google Maps, moving along a small screen of a few streets, holds nothing like the same sense of wonder and anticipation.

Would I swap all the convenience of today for the nostalgia of yesterday? Probably not. Instead, I try to remember that today’s latest thing is tomorrow’s nostalgia. One day, our children will be telling their own children, via the microchip implanted in their heads, how they miss that obsolete rectangle of obsession which they’d called the iPhone.

Do tell me what you think technology has robbed from us in the comments below!

There’s more this week on the Life in the Hot Lane Facebook Page including the seven girlfriends who’ve bought their dream mansion so they can retire together. How cool is that? ‘Like’ page to stay updated.

8 thoughts on “Things Technology Has Robbed From Us

  1. I do sympathise with every one of your comments. Technology however is my godsend at the moment. I have one child (son and oldest) who works all over the world in differing time zones and, being in the entertainment industry, on differing shift patterns. I have one child (daughter and youngest) who lives in Melbourne. Middle daughter is in sunny Manchester but still not within popping in distance. Our family lifelines are Find a Friend, Whats App and Instagram. They keep us all connected, no awkward telephone calls to catch up for us, family banter full on at all times. On the question of photographs, youngest prepared a box of photographs that she wanted to keep, but did not want to transport to the other side of the world. These are in the process of being scanned and put onto a cute little data stick that she can plug in anywhere and flip through her own memory bank, as a small gift from me to keep her connected. What technology has taken away has been the six week turn around of letters and photographs when my best friend left for Australia 30 years ago, although less connected then, the occasion of a letter arriving and settling down with a cuppa to absorb every word and photograph will never be replaced by the ping of a Whats App message. I still would not be without it !

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  2. I love this post! I’m often saying to my teenagers something I swore I’d never say «  in my day…. » 😂 I sometimes wish we could go back to the 1980s, especially to show my teenagers that life wasn’t all about screens, phones and social media! But I also agree that technology has also had some amazingly positive benefits, especially as I live abroad and keeping in touch is so easy these days 😊

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  3. Our family just celebrated my husband’s 60th birthday with a very successful surprise party here in Virginia. Four children, 3 spouses, 3 grand children and we did not turn on the television for three days! Not only that but all of the kids (aged 36-27) pulled ALL the old photo albums off the bookcase and smashed together on the sofa to point, laugh and roll their eyes! And, we TALKED! Now I buy “10 year journals” (Amazon) and when I want, add a small photo to the entry with a staple. A much less daunting endeavor than the old larger albums, but still makes me smile with memory. And the technology allows me to send the photos from my iPhone to the pharmacy to have prints ready in minutes! Blog on Clare. Well done!

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  4. Ha ha , love the TV references, in our house when we watched Star Trek and the enterprise loomed upon the screen , we all shouted «  plastic ! » some silly Joke that Dad started – and 40 years later it still makes me laugh ! I miss that cosy feeling of Sunday Night , all creatures great and small etc, very innocent .
    I do bond a lot with my daughter sitting down to a film or series on Netflix whenever we have time .
    So have to agree on loving mostly technology ! Xx

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  5. Hello,
    I’ve just listened to ‘The Sober Diaries’ via audiobook (late to the party, story of my life) and have as a result stumbled across this blog.
    Despite not having children, and not being able to relate in terms of background and financial situation (think single, Primark version of yourself) you’ve made me feel like I’m not alone.
    Thanks for the inspiration and the hope. This is the age of the ‘middle-aged’ woman and it’s time to celebrate it and laugh at ourselves (and it all) at the same time. Brilliant.
    Thank you.

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  6. I agree that in so many ways we’ve gained more than we’ve lost. But oh! Those Sunday nights gathered around the TV watching “The Wonderful World of Disney” with my whole family after dinner (eaten with all of us sitting at the table and actually TALKING to each other!).
    Or the excitement of answering the phone and not knowing if it was “him” on the other end.
    I absolutely love your comment: “We need more boredom, or we’ll have less magic.” So very true!
    But..when my oldest daughter, who is going to school three states away, is bored she FaceTimes me. Or she can text me that she needs money and I Venmo it to her. Not magic for the world, but magical in my little world.
    Love all you write, Clare! Thank you

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