Watching Stranger Things with my wife and her grandmother was really fun. (I’m pretty sure that if you asked Granny what the show was about she’d say there was a monster in the woods and then ask you if the little bald kid was a boy or a girl.) The storytelling was good, it was perfectly cast, and it was set in a time that people my age remember fondly. I grew up in the eighties and early nineties. The days before the internet. The good old days. If you drove somewhere, you needed to know how to read a map. If you wanted to argue about politics, you wrote a letter to the editor of your local paper. If you wanted to know what an acquaintance you made in sixth grade had for dinner that evening, you had to go to the phone, which was attached to your kitchen wall with a cord (gasp!) and call them. There was something nice about all of that. But was it better?
There are some good arguments to be made in favor of life before google maps and social media. When I was a kid, I couldn’t text my friends. There was no instant connectivity. The closest I came to that was a barely audible walkie talkie connection with a friend who lived across the pond from me. The result was that we spent more time outside. We got together and did things. Rode bikes, built forts, went camping, caused mischief. It was nice. I also do not remember getting any Candy Crush requests in the mail when I was a kid. Back in the day people talked smack face to face. This meant that there was a real danger of a fight breaking out, so the smack talking had to be worth it. Today if you want to run your mouth you can grab a hot drink, get comfortable in your favorite chair, grab your phone, and type. Everybody’s brave when they’re separated from their opponent by a hundred miles and a fake screen name. We were more civil to each other back when we were less connected. (On a side note, back then Hollywood lacked the technology to constantly assault us with soulless superhero movies. We didn’t know how good we had it.)
But what about the positives of modern life? I’m glad you asked. First off, social media has enabled me to keep in touch with my family. I can share pictures of my kids and in turn see what they are up too. Secondly, I can now run a background check on anyone who wants to befriend me. It no longer takes three or four outings before you figure out that a potential new friend is completely nuts. Now you can meet someone, friend them on Facebook, check out their page, and immediately go “Nope, nope, Noooooooppppe.” Turns out, people are more than willing to expose their insanity for the world to see. Our new interconnectedness can also be motivational. How many times have you gotten online and seen that a friend ran three miles that day? I would guess that it happens a lot, because people are really proud of themselves when they work out. Then you go grab your running shoes and begrudgingly run a couple miles because there’s no way you’re going to let Joe look better than you at this year’s reunion. Later you’ll realize you have nothing to worry about, though, because Joe will post a picture of himself eating a giant cheesesteak all by himself.
My general conclusion is that life is no better or worse because of our constant state of connection. It’s just different. This spring I am going to plan a few 80’s weekends with my family. We’re going to unplug, watch John Hughes movies, break out my old Nintendo games and teach the boys how to blow into them to get them to work, and then we’ll actually leave the house to do something. Don’t worry, I’ll post pictures on Monday to let everyone know how it went.