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!

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