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Sometimes I Miss Life Before the Internet

Sometimes I Miss Life Before the Internet 2

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I remember clearly when I purchased my first computer and went online with AOL, one of the only ways to get online at the time.  I remember when it was a novelty to see a web address on a television commercial.  I clearly remember life before the internet.

And sometimes I really miss it.

To be sure, there are things I like about being online. I like being able to Google just about anything I can think of and get an answer in 1.23 seconds.

I like meeting new people and reading new things.

But as I look at my bedroom bookcase full of books I haven’t read, I realize how much I miss just reading books.  I still read a lot, but much more of it is online.  And reading online doesn’t bring the same level of warmth and satisfaction as seeing a bookshelf full of books and remembering when I read each one.

I’ve met wonderful people online from literally all over the world.  But I wonder how many people I haven’t met in real life because I was online.

I remember when it was an exciting novelty to get an email from someone. “You’ve got mail!” was something to look forward to instead of being another thing to be dealt with all day, every day.

I remember when I was a prolific letter writer in real life, sending out letters and notes on a regular basis.  Now I send out quick notes made of electrons that lack warmth and the personal touch of a carefully selected piece of stationary or notecard.

I don’t know. For all I’ve gained from the internet, I am beginning to suspect that all of the promises it holds are somehow robbing me of things that are much more important to me.  A disk full of emails has no charm like a stack of letters tied with a lovely ribbon. Caroline reading a copy of my blog someday will not be the same as reading a handwritten journal, another casualty of going electronic.

No neat and tidy wrap up with this post.  Just things I’m thinking about today.

Sometimes I Miss Life Before the Internet


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  • I hear you, too. You know I’ve struggled with this very thing. I went totally offline for a whole month. It was great at first, but I began to realize things I’d have to give up by being completely free from the Internet (like and it’s great ratings system for nearly every product imaginable) and I was saddened.

    So I am now getting my hubby to lock me out during the day so I can’t rely on the Internet for every little thing. And it’s refreshing. I can keep my mind on one thing at a time much better if I’ve not been jaunting all over the Web before starting my day. If I can’t get online when I’m bored I have to look around for something in my home to do. Makes me do a lot less sitting around, and my house is cleaner and my kids are happier!

    In many ways my world has expanded in a positive way because of the Internet. But just like I don’t need 75 cereal choices in the grocery store to be content, I don’t need 100 blogs to read to be informed. Limiting my online time means limiting my choices. And I am the happier for it.

  • I have wondered about the same things for years. I first came in contact with computers at work and came to the conclusion, that they take over your life. I purchased one for home use and it has been downhill ever since. I wonder if this is the way I want to spend the rest of my life, reading and thinking about information that doesn’t have anything to do with my life. Which is better, an E-mail or picking up the phone and talking to someone personally and hearing their voice. So much is missed in just hearing the tone of their voice. I admit you get a lot more news, but is it important? People say they can’t live without computers, but are they really living with them? Have we been brainwashed into believing we need every new gadget that comes on the market? What damage has been done to the young with all the games that are played on their computer? I haven’t seen very many, in the stores, that would be fit for a child and yet they will spend hours playing them. Never to leave their bedroom and go outside and play and interact with friends. Sallie, you have brought up an interesting point. Thank you.

  • I think about this all of the time. I remember pre-internet days very clearly.

    The internet took off right after I left college, so I was in college before it. We were absolutely fine before the internet, if not better off.

    I just read Against the Machine by Lee Siegel, which is about the downsides of the internet. Very interesting book if you’re interested in this topic. His premise is that when we are online “interacting,” whether on blogs or forums or FB, people are only “half” people, as we are to them. Why? Because we can just turn them off, silence them, with one click, unlike real life. At the same time, when we are online, we are not truly thinking or writing, even though we may think we are, because those are solitary pursuits and we are not alone when we are online.

    I have a part-time job that requires me to be on the internet frequently, but for short periods, but it looks like it’s going to be drying up soon. Lent is also coming up, and I’m trying to think of a way that I can “give up” the internet, but still do the few things I have to do on it and read the few things that I do value.

  • “But I wonder how many people I haven’t met in real life because I was online.”

    I also meant to add that this line really resonated with me. I am such a big believer that when we create space in our lives, whether it’s getting out of friendships or activities or groups that are dragging us down etc., we open ourselves to new opportunities.

  • Having these exact same thoughts! I’m not sure there is an easy answer at the moment, but I have been thinking about some kind of break from the computer during Lent. I’m just not sure how to pick and choose at the moment.

  • I’ve probably become friends in real life with more people via the internet than without it. It helps to live in a city with a vibrant blogging community, but the moms I call my closest friends these days all started with intersections through my blog.

    We’ve had that “meeting of the minds” before we ever had a “meeting at the playground.”

    My thoughts often echo yours, but I hate to think how much more alone I would feel if I hadn’t had the internet those first few scary years at home.

  • “I’ve probably become friends in real life with more people via the internet than without it.”

    This comment really resonated with me. My closest friends were met via the Internet! (In fact I was first on the Internet 17 years ago this month. I remember it vividly because I was in the final weeks of my second pregnancy.) These *are* “real-life” friends, despite the fact they’re on the other side of the country. We have spent nights at each other’s homes, vacationed together, helped each other through miscarriage, labor, adoption, the deaths of parents and grandparents, our children’s college applications, and so much more. For someone who is a relative introvert, the Internet has made it so easy to find “kindred spirits.” In my case I don’t believe my life would be nearly as rich without it.

    I understand the questions that are running through your mind…but I figure life always has tradeoffs. Sometimes I do think, “I could have been reading a book or watching a movie instead of surfing the ‘Net!” and feel I’ve wasted time. There are other drawbacks, like the troll who has posted nasty notes on my blog just about daily for over 18 months now.

    But on the other hand…our 20-year-old daughter is spending 5 months studying in London. This probably would have sent me into a real funk if this was the pre-Internet era — being thrilled for her, but sad at being separated for so long, waiting weeks for letters to arrive. But thanks to the Internet, we can see photos of her activities almost immediately (instead of waiting for them to be developed next summer!), read emails and her trip blog, see mini-videos she takes of things like a London snowfall or ice skating at the Tower of London, and talk face-to-face via Skype! That just amazes me. She is currently on a week’s trip to Italy and Switzerland and could email us last night to tell us she had an amazing day at the Vatican. We have peace of mind knowing she’s fine on a regular basis, while at the same time she is having the independence of quite an adventure as she transitions into adulthood. I’m printing out her emails to include in a scrapbook of some kind when she gets home.

    One of the friends I made via the Internet, who has “known” my daughter since she was preschool age, sent her a significant financial gift out of the clear blue sky to make her visit to Italy extra-special. These kinds of amazing kindnesses have happened over and over to our family, thanks to the Internet, and hopefully in turn I’ve been able to bless my friends’ families. One of my most wonderful experiences was being able to surprise one of my close “Internet friends” by turning up in person for her baby shower in early 2000 just after she adopted a baby — in MA! (I’m in CA.)

    And something that’s fun is that the friends I’ve made via the Internet treasure “snail mail,” as I do, so I still receive and send real mail, too! 🙂

    So…with the Internet you do lose some things, but at least in my case the scale tips to what one gains.

    Best wishes,

  • The internet is a double edged sword. I too have made deep and lasting real life friendships I would have not made without the internet *and* I have neglected cooking dinner and keeping my home tidy because I let too much time slip away surfing. It is yet another area where I must daily and hourly yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  • Yes, there are pro’s and con’s to the internet. So far the pro’s for our family outweigh the con’s. Pro’s~~my husband and I make our living teaching on the internet, I have many true friends that I’ve met on the internet and whom I have mostly *not* met face-to-face, I have learned so many things from the internet and been enriched in so many ways. Also, my daughter, who is to be married this summer, met her future husband through the interneet and has carried on her relationship with him almost entirely through it. Con’s~~time wasted, books not read, temptation to ignore what’s going on around me. Like with everything in life, we must think about our internet use and act deliberately and with discipline.

  • I am norwegian, so my english may not be as good as the reader would expect.

    I am 29 years old, I soon have my bachelors degree in computer science. I was
    in the navy some years before I started my studies at the university.

    My studies have taught me the programming skills, and the details of the protocols necessary for computer networks. All that is in itself very fascinating. But the more philosophical-like questions about what this very rapid development in technology do to us as humans are not adressed in the curricilum.

    I still remember the days when the expenses of a phonecall was such that you at
    least considered the cost before you chose to use the phone. Information was not
    accessible instantly through Google. When I was 12 I was almost euphoric when
    there was I documentary on TV, on whatever subject…(i was kind of a geek, and in Norway we had only 1 TV-channel until I was 12-13-14..close too that)

    Now I can get video and text on all kinds of subjects whenever I want to. But the result is NOT that I throw myself on all this new knowledge. It is like, “the information is there when I need it, so why bother looking into it now?”. It may of course be a character flaw in me, but I have a feeling that I would have a deeper understanding of what I am learning in the 1980’s or earlier than I do now.

    Now it is like fragmented knowledge. I know something about many things, but I have not had the time (well, really I have had the time, but the internet have seduced me into wasting time) to really get a deep understanding of what I am learning.

    Amnyways, I have recently become aware of this. And now I for example appriciate the more mathematical aspects of programming. The “everlasting” mathematical truths about algorithms used in programming.
    And I daydream about days when not only networks, but also computers and their software, was “just” theoretical ideas discussed among people reading books of paper.



Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! ♥

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