Back to the good ol’ days

We have so many modern conveniences that have taken years to develop and perfect. We have gotten used to these, but for one reason or another many of us believe that we were better off the way things were. In fact, we are now seeing a shift away from conveniences that are “easier” and to the way things were. Let’s take a look at a few of those things and consider whether we had it right the first time.

The “just enough” tech

When you think of your smart phone, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it how productive or efficient it makes you? Probably not. What started as a way to make our lives easier, more efficient, and more connected has slowly turned into a huge distraction, sometimes even an addiction. Sure, there are things your phone allows you to do that are extremely helpful, like navigating from Point A to Point B, sending an essential text, making a phone call, capturing a moment in a picture, and sharing a photo. But it’s gone well beyond those useful features. Smart phones give us virtually unlimited access to information, apps, and social media. All of this has many of us longing for the way things were.

The trend started back in 2016 when Punkt released the MP 01 phone. The minimalist phone can text and call. It does exactly what it needs to and nothing else. MP 01 focuses on the “essentials of communication” and nothing more — no internet, apps, or extra bells and whistles. This phone was a hit — it sold out almost instantly. The following year Japanese company Kyocera released a version of a simplified phone. KY-01L is about the size of a credit card. Although it can browse the internet, the black and white e-paper screen is not ideal for long scrolling sessions. This simple phone is great for those who want to be less distracted.

It’s not just phones that might be better as a simplified device. Portable gaming has also turned to a more retro style. Everyone remembers the Game Boy, but handheld gaming looks very different now than it did 15 years ago. However, Analogue is changing all of that. The Analogue Pocket is a tribute to how gaming used to be. With striking resemblance to the Game Boy, this gadget isn’t just cooler looking — it has 10x the resolution of its predecessor, better color and lighting, a solid sound system, and it can play any of the Game Boy family games right out of the box. Pocket is shipping out in 2020 for $199.

People are buying “outdated” tech for a reason: it makes our lives less complex. But another, less tangible, reason is the nostalgia we associate with the “firsts” in our lives. I can remember my first phone very clearly — the size of a bar of soap, ice blue with a sliding keyboard. I’ve had probably five different iPhones since then, yet none hold the memory of the first. There is something special about the first device we spent hours holding, cherishing, angrily pulling couch cushions apart to find. Reliving those feelings is special and always will be.

Communal living

Speaking of things we can’t live without, let’s talk about how we live. We all know the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” And when people lived in villages, that was easy to do. Large extended families were together in the same home and community, cooking, learning, and parenting communally. Everything was done as a team. Now families live separately, young families live apart from their parents, and each family cooks, cleans, and provides for themselves. We love our privacy and independence, but is this really for the best?

Some people are questioning our lifestyles, and more and more co-living spaces are popping up with enticing benefits. First of all, most co-living spaces are all about sharing and collaborating. Co-living is defined as when three or more nonbiological people or families sharing a common space together. Why buy a toolset yourself when one of your housemates loves DIY projects and has every tool imaginable? Or instead of spending hours cooking dinner every week, why not split up the cooking and have everyone pick one day of the week to cook? Not only is it logistically beneficial, but economically too. Nearly always the cost is cheaper than a standard apartment. Resources are pooled together, which means places are usually furnished and utilities are paid for as a group. In these communities, people live with others who have similar interests, passions, and outlooks. Co-living spaces are most popular with young adults who don’t want to be tied down to a mortgage or lease, but married and retired people also find these types of places appealing.

Modern co-living started in Denmark in the 1960s and was brought to the US in 1989. In Denmark the main benefits typically have to do with sharing, but in the US, people are more focused on fighting social isolation. According to PBS, in Denmark, it’s estimated that 1% of Denmark’s population lives in spaces like this, but in the US there are only 150 co-living communities. US residents are highly independent and private, which leads to personal lives with few social interactions, especially among the elderly. Co-living causes multigenerational groups to help and support each other in all stages of life, to develop empathy for those of all ages, and to build a deep sense of community we were always meant to have.

Fresh foods

Eating is something we all enjoy, whether a snack on the couch or a fancy meal in a restaurant. Back only a couple generations ago, food was bought fresh and then cooked; processed food wasn’t available, mostly because the packaging wasn’t available. In 1954 TV dinners hit the market in aluminum foil trays, and suddenly we had the promise of easy and quick meals. Our love of convenience continued in tandem with the creation of plastics from the 1950s through the 1970’s. Today nearly everything at the grocery store is packaged for easy use and disposal.

Much of our food is still overly packaged, but many shoppers are seeking to reduce their use of processed and packaged foods by buying from the bulk-food section. Instead of using ready-to-eat meals, shoppers are choosing to buy raw produce, meat, and grains to cook at home. According to Bloomberg, 82% of the meals Americans eat are cooked at home. This is a huge increase from just a decade ago. This could be for many reasons, including deliverable meal kits, the rise of student loans (which means less money for eating out), or just the good fuzzy feeling of eating a home-cooked meal.

Not only that, but with the rise of transparent supply chains, people want to know more than ever where their food is coming from, and sometimes that means taking it into their own hands…literally. The National Gardening Association (NGA) estimates that 35% of American households have gardens. This is an increase of 200% since 2008. Millennials represent 29% of all gardening households, especially young married couples with children. If this trend continues, it will be very interesting to see how this changes the grocery market.

Back in the day, living was simple. Although we have so many modern conveniences now, the paradigm is shifting, proving that new doesn’t always mean better or easier. Whether it’s a phone with all the functions in the world, a huge house for your four-person family in a sprawling neighborhood, or pre-packaged meals, sometimes after we try the “new” way, we realize the old way is much better. Unfortunately, profit is still king, and what’s marketed as “new” is often more about profit than about what we really need or what’s good for us.

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