Someone said to me today ‘how awful it must have been, growing up before the internet’. I have been thinking of that remark all day. I am actually glad I did not grow up with the internet. I have been lucky enough to straddle two eras.
I was born in the 1960s with rows of encyclopaedias, radio programmes, rotary phones, old 78 rpm records and no television. I learned to read at the age of 4 and as I grew older reading took me on great adventures. I could build images in my mind, develop my imagination, improve my spelling and analytical skills as well as the speed at which I could assimilate information. Great worlds of my own making were contained within the pages of my books.
Kids were really kids then – you dressed like a kid, climbed trees and got scrapes and grazes. Clothes were practical, food was solid and no-nonsense, sweets were full of sugar and dye, but very few people had allergies or were overweight because we were so active and probably surrounded by more germs than we are today. I learned how to darn socks, patch clothes and iron cotton hankies. My parents and grandparents had lived through world wars and were used to coming out with not very much. Presents at Christmas and birthdays were not very big but boy how much they were appreciated. My favorite birthday present of all time was a hair bobble with a daisy on it and a box of 12 coloured pencils.
When I went to my uncle’s sea cottage from the age of ten or so with my cousins, we would wake up as soon as the sun rose, eat a quick breakfast and then walk for an hour to the beach, carrying our surfboards, buckets/spades and rubber dinghies. We would swim and run along the beach until lunchtime, when we would walk home again to eat our lunch. After lunch our granny would allow us to choose three pick n mix sweets (not chocolates) from her tin. We took ages to choose and towards the end of the holiday only the sherbets and boiled sweets were left.
After lunch we would run around town collecting empty glass bottles we could sell to make a few coins for treats, or we would be back at the beach until about 4pm when we would walk home yet again. We were ravenous and exhausted so after dinner we would go to our rooms with our candles (there was no electricity in our rooms) and go straight to sleep. We had no television and no telephone. We had a battery operated radio and cassette player which we used to listen to in the evenings.
My parents bought a black and white television in about 1974 and there was about two hours of television each day. The rest of the time I would read or listen to radio plays – both of which really developed my imagination.
If a boy said he would phone you, you would hang around the phone hoping it would ring. Every now and then it was possible you checked the phone to see it had a ringtone. If someone else received a call you would jump around like a mad thing trying to get them to end their call in case your crush tried to phone while the line was busy.
Notes were passed around at school, you would get letters from your friends and family and people often had pen pals. We played a lot of school sport and went to bed early i the evenings as we were so tired.
When I went to prom my mom made my dress and my dad drove me there. The decor was very basic but we didn’t enjoy it any less for it.
Now I am older I am really glad I had that experience when I was young. I don’t feel at all that I missed out on anything. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace social media, use Google all the time and watch Netflix every day. I have a mobile phone with me almost all the time, and buy almost everything online. I do most of my work using the internet even though I use a Filofax for all my planning.
But oh I would not like to be young in today’s internet world. The pressure of being popular and having a perfect life to present to the world on social media. The need to always look good and compare favorably to all the slim models and beautiful people showing off their airbrushed perfection on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Being almost surgically attached to various digital devices wherever you are, whenever you are. Being available 24/7 and never having a break. Being disturbed all the time by texts, push notifications, emails. Having a constant flow of information bombarding you all the time. The fear of missing out, the misery of not living up to all the perfect lives you seem to see everywhere. People seeming to live on diets but the world getting fatter. Having more and more possessions but being more stressed by everything we have. More and more people having breast implants, Botox, big poufy lips, fillers, liposuction, nips, tucks and lips, but more and more people seemingly really unhappy in themselves. All the trolls who say horrible awful things because they are anonymous.
Nowadays I see my cousins’ kids at the same sea cottage and I feel quite sad for them, at the same time they are probably feeling really sorry for me! They sit with all the curtains drawn, watching movies or playing computer games, they don’t go to the beach and if they go to town they only go if someone drives them there. They complain about being bored and stay up half the night with their phones, Playstation and DVDs, meaning they cannot wake up in the morning and so they turn day into night.
When they go to prom the dresses cost thousands, the cars have to be really fancy. It’s like the Oscars. But do they really enjoy it any more than we did?
I love living now but I am also glad I am not going through childhood and puberty in today’s image obsessed digital world. The only things I would have liked to have had when I was younger – sunscreen and good hair products for curly hair!
Well I grew up in the 1950’s (born ’51), but life in the Midlands was very much like the one you describe. I, too, appreciate the simplicity of life back then, and despite today’s technological advances, I’m sure we are far more practical and healthy than a lot of today’s kids. I’m sure allergies weren’t even invented then! Haha. Keep up the fantastic, and so varied blog.
Excellent post, Janet, and so true!
I am so grateful I experienced life before the super highway and sometimes feel a bit sad for my children and grandchildren. Even now I have to remind myself to be present wherever I am and not think about what’s going on in the virtual world. Beautifully written Janet.
Having been born a bit before you I recall doing all you mentioned. We walked everywhere, or in NYC, rode the subway. No TV, not car, no competition to be the prettiest girl or the handsome=mest boy
Growing up when you and I did allowed us to see the real world directly. We didn’t experience it through a screen. Aspects of that world like any other could be tough but it allowed us to interact directly. Our lives were richer. It was a world where imagination flourished but we also became real people. “Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ Margery Williams. I hope you know what I mean.