I Wish it Were 1978, Just For One Day

I love social media. Twitter in particular.

As a matter of fact, my day starts with the microblogging platform as my first point of reference to what has occurred between the six (if I’m lucky) hours since I lay my head upon the pillow and drifted off into a restless, blue-light sleep.

What hashtags are trending? What happened during the night (or morning, depending on the place in the world where other “Tweeps” happen to be scrolling their timelines), I ask myself. With FOMO in full swing, I scan for the latest updates.

Whew.

Nothing too life-altering.

Of course there are the requisite news items, references to the latest Kimye activities and hashtags that I’m too old to really understand.

Nothing to see here, people. Move along now.

Yet I can’t.

Ditto for Facebook, which comes in at a close second.

It, too, is my destination of choice (after Twitter, of course) not long after I open my bleary eyes each morning. Mindlessly scrolling through my friends’ various updates: pictures of their kids, their vacations and their meals, I “Like” more status updates than I can remember. Because that’s just what’s done, right?

On so many nights, I sit here at my laptop, keenly aware that I should be in bed, attempting to get that elusive sleep that is so often referenced yet never experienced. But I can’t. The “blue light” of my laptop wins out every time.

Back in the day, there was no such battle. In the days and years before the Internet became a standard household utility, the end of the day was, well, the end of the day. Perhaps a little TV before tucking in for the evening, or maybe reading a few pages of that book that beckoned from the nightside table (not on an iPad or smartphone) were the options, Twitter be damned.

Whether or not to retire for the evening was not a decision that was fraught with consequence. No Instagram images would be missed, no email inboxes would be filled and no status updates, tweets or hashtags would be forever lost in the quickly-moving stream of information. The fight between common sense (“go to bed now!” it would implore) and the overwhelming desire to just keep scrolling to read the latest updates was non-existent.

And I miss those times.

Whether it was 1978, 1987 or as recently as 1996, I wish it were then, at least for one day. A full 24 hours unfettered by beeps, buzzes or vibrations, (depending on your notification sound of preference) would be heavenly.

Back then, life was simpler, less frantic and certainly slower. Remember “snail mail?”

A novel concept — writing a letter, popping it into a box and waiting for a time until the recipient called you on the telephone to thank you for your efforts. A telephone — yes — a utility that was tethered to a location in your home, now more wistfully referred to as a “Land Line.”

Remember the proverbial “5 o’clock bell” that signified the end of the workday? Yes — that was it. Once you walked through those workplace doors and left your place of employment for the day, you really left for the day. No emails, text messages, DMs, Tweets, Facebook pokes or messages or myriad of other ways to get in touch with you just in case there was a work-related emergency. The day was done and that was that. And somehow, I choose to believe that attention spans were longer back then, too.

Now don’t get me wrong: I love technology and, for the most part, make a living using its various incarnations. Technology is wonderful and no — I don’t want to eliminate the convenience of sending and receiving texts, viewing Facebook updates from my friends on the other side of the world or following the latest hilarious hashtag. This is not a case for eliminating digital advances and returning to a simpler time. It’s just that the days when there was a definite start and end no longer exist and, well, I miss them.

Is it possible to return to a time where the pace of life was slower, where conversations were longer and face-to-face, eye-to-eye contact were welcomed, even encouraged, rather than seen as a threat to one’s ever-precious personal space or worse yet — an infringement on a person’s rightfully-earned screen time?

Sadly, probably not. Our lives are so entwined with our day-to-day existence that it would be almost impossible to put the genie back into the bottle. Forget about “The Digital Divide,” for even those who were once perceived as having less or no access to the online world are quickly bringing up the rear with the growing availability of more affordable digital options in hardware, software and service. Mobile phones are ubiquitous, Internet access is as close as your nearest public library or Starbucks and Internet Service Providers are feeling the heat of competition and lowering their rates. We’re digitally divided much less than we ever were with no prospect of this trend reversing any time soon, if ever. In other words, the way we used to connect way back in 1978 and beyond will not likely return ever again. Ironically we’re simultaneuously more disconnected from each other while being more connected to each other — at least digitally — than we have ever been. Strange, isn’t it?

Amazingly prescient, Albert Einstein got many things right on a scientific level. He discovered and predicted some of the greatest scientific truths but it is his forsight into the future that resonates when one considers our disconnection to each other that has been facilitated by technological advances:

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” — Albert Einstein

As we walk past each other, staring into our smartphones, blocking out the world with noise-cancelling earbuds and eliminating eye contact with the darkest shades possible, it’s clear that Einstein was right.