As soon as I saw its title, I couldn’t not read what came next: What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet.
It’s a piece in Quartz that discusses Michael Harris’ new book, “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.” Born before 1985, I happen to be who the article references as “the very opposite of the ‘millennial’ demographic,” “the last of a dying breed.”
Though I’ve not yet read the book, its premise intrigues me, A particular quote from the article has lingered long after I’ve moved on to other things–
“Being in this situation puts us in a privileged position. ‘If we’re the last people in history to know life before the internet, we are also the only ones who will ever speak, as it were, both languages. We are the only fluent translators of Before and After.’”
I never want to languish in memories of The Good Old Days nor romanticize the past beyond its place, but apparently by virtue of the year of my birth, I am bilingual. You are, too, if you were born before 1985, and we’re able to speak to what life was like before the internet was born.
Those of us born before 1985 are in an oddly privileged position. We can speak experientially about what our children will only understand conceptually.
Our children will never understand life apart from the internet.
They will never learn how to use a microfiche reader (they won’t even know what it is!) or have to carry a thousand pounds of reference books to write a research paper.
Truly, there are zillions of experiences they’ll never know – never need to know – because of technological advances we could have never imagined back in the day.
My children are older now, but I wish I had this understanding when they were little.
It wouldn’t have philosophically changed the way I (we) parented, but I might have more strongly impressed upon them a few skills and practices I believe will set them apart now and in the future.
The beauty and benefits of boredom.
I know we’re coming out of summer when children have been underfoot and many mamas are past ready for their kiddos to return to school, but one of the loveliest things about summer is a more relaxed schedule.
Unless your children are playing in summer leagues, they typically don’t have extracurriculars demanding attention. While they could easily fill their time with technological pacifiers – gaming, TV binge watching, social networking – learning how to cope with boredom will serve them well (this isn’t confined to summertime!).
Boredom is a fantastic motivator for doing something and spurring imagination.
Don’t let technology rob them of tent forts or lemonade stands or board games. Of course, activities are determined by a child’s age, but I feel for the kid who’s never learned to lie on his back and “see” animal shapes in the clouds.
Dragons, dinosaurs, and unicorns are waiting to be found.
Learning how to read a map.
I know I know, GPS is a good thing – a great thing – for getting from here to there. But it’s not 100% reliable.
Maybe the cell phone they’re using dies and they left their car charger at home; maybe they find themselves unexpectedly in an area with no cell service.
Believe it or not, there ARE circumstances you’ll find yourself in, where you need to understand where you are and be able to orient yourself without the help of a device.
These days, we’re conditioned to type in an address and follow it blindly, not even recognizing if we’re headed north, south, east, or west.
Learning navigational skills might not be something you use on a daily basis, but it falls neatly under one of my Life Philosophies: “Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”
Being able to fix, create, or do things with your hands.
The path of least resistance is followed because it’s easier.
Teach your kids to buck that temptation by learning how to do things themselves. Fix a running toilet; hang a ceiling fan; change the lightbulb on your car’s headlight–simple things that will cost a lot if you hire someone else to do it for you.
Or, get comfortable in the kitchen. That doesn’t necessarily mean cooking gourmet meals; finding a few, decently-healthy meals you can prepare will always serve you and your family, and potentially be a gift for others.
Or maybe pick up art supplies and try your hand at painting or making jewelry or Pinterest-crafting. Teach your kids to garden, woodwork, sew, or write in cursive!
Learn with them if need be (lifelong learning is an important practice to pass on).
Don’t get lost in the virtual matrix at the expense of learning valuable, real life skills that not everyone in the future will have.
Teach manners and focused attention.
I’m convinced that training/coaching/teaching your children to completely disconnect from their phone when they’re with other people or at work is a skill that will distinguish them and set them apart from the pack.
It’s not only a pet peeve or personal preference to resent frequent phone checkers when you’re in conversation; it is unprofessional in a work environment and downright rude in a personal setting.
Believe me, while I’m wagging a finger outward, three are pointing back at me, and this is a practice I’m hoping to perfect myself.