35 Things We Miss About Life Before the Internet
Thinking back to the way life was before the internet quickly drums up waves of nostalgia for anyone who can remember it. And leave it to Reddit to spark a debate about some of the most common things people miss.
Ready to take a walk down memory lane? From the little things, like going to the video rental store and receiving newspaper and magazine subscriptions, to more significant cultural shifts, like the importance of RSVPing to a party, these pre-internet musings from Reddit users will make you long for days past.
The Sears Christmas Wishbook
“That’s how we did Christmas every year,” said one Reddit user.
“Mom and Dad would hand us the new catalog and we’d page to the back and circle stuff we were interested in. We wouldn’t get it all, and they’d find stuff from other places — but the Sears catalog is the thing that really stands out.”
The Surprise Photos on Rolls of Film
Many people were quick to mention finding old, unlabeled rolls of film that had never been developed.
“Remember when you finally developed them, you’d find a day and a half of vacation pics from a year and a half ago or something random like that? I miss that experience,” said one Reddit user.
Going to the Library to Do Research
Going to the library to research things is certainly something that has remained in the past — but that doesn’t mean it’s not missed.
“I loved getting a big pile of books on a table, taking notes, getting photocopies ... It was an experience in itself,” said one Reddit user.
“This is gonna sound dumb but ... getting lost,” said one Reddit uder.
“Like, it was bad a lot of the time too, but sometimes, not knowing exactly where you were going led to unexpected and awesome consequences.”
Writing and Receiving Letters
When was the last time you wrote or received a handwritten note?
Many people mentioned that writing letters and receiving letters, collecting special stationery for special family members and getting cards through snail mail for holidays, sometimes even with pictures of your loved ones, is what they miss the most.
Less Emphasis on Appearance
“Not having to be constantly aware of my appearance,” said one Reddit user.
“We were all growing and uncomfortable, and we knew it, but we also had the understanding that there wasn’t much we could do about it. I miss awkward kids.”
The Blink of the Answering Machine
Getting home and finding the blinking light on the answer machine might not happen anymore — but many people wish it still did.
“Somebody called me! Was it Amber? No, she was with me. Was it Kelly? We haven't talked in ages. Maybe it was that cute guy I met at the mall,” one Reddit user joked. “If you were avoiding someone it was much easier to pretend you never got the message. Now people just text me and they know if I've read it.”
The Scholastic Book Club
Anyone growing up in the 1990s will remember the thrill of the Scholastic Book Club.
You'd mark the ones you wanted in the catalog for that month, and then eventually your books would show up in your cubby or locker, and it just made your day.
Going to a Store to Buy a CD
“There was so much excitement going to a CD store to buy an album that you only knew one song of or the band/artist name and just listening to that entire CD over and over again, picking out which tracks were your favorite while still learning every lyric to all the songs on the album,” another Reddit user commented.
Instant-Win Bottle Cap Contests
“The instant-win bottle caps/candy/chocolate bar wrappers where you could turn them back into the store and immediately get a free one,” added one Reddit user.
“Now, it's just codes you have to register on their website so they can get your info. I don't even bother anymore!”
Reading a Physical Newspaper
According to one Reddit user, reading a newspaper is not the same now that we have access to minute-by-minute news.
Reading the newspaper back then used to be like a curated tour of the news — first the biggest stories of the day, then the big international and national stories, local stories, sports and finally the arts and the comics.
Video Rental Stores
Of course, everyone who remembers life before the internet has a loving nostalgia for Blockbuster and local video rental stores.
“I have such good memories of going to our local Mr. Movie with my dad, renting a sci-fi flick and getting candy at the checkout,” said one Reddit user. “Streaming is cool and all, but I do miss video rental stores, mainly for nostalgic reasons.”
The Absence of Push Notifications
The absence of push notifications meant being able to go about life without worrying about responding to Facebook messages or checking for Instagram likes.
“Disable all of that, except for maybe texts and calls. Especially social media stuff,” suggested one Reddit user. “If you're not actively browsing that site, who really cares if someone liked your comment or replied to it? You'll see it the next time you go on the site.”
Fully Committing to Making Plans
According to one Reddit user, making plans was an adventure, especially if you and your friends all relied on public transportation.
“Look up the movie times in the newspaper (or later call moviefone), decide on a time to meet (and tell that one friend who's always late an earlier time), walk out of your house and check the bus timetable, and then hope nothing happens en route since you had no way of telling your friends if you're late.”
Saturday Morning Cartoons
Although Saturday morning cartoons could easily be replicated via Netflix, there was something special about turning on the TV before the household woke up and catching whatever it was that was on.
“Saturday morning cartoons with the biggest bowl of cereal you could muster out of the cupboard before the folks woke up…” one Reddit user mused.
The News Only Airing at 6 P.M.
**The News Only Airing at 6 P.M.
“News only being on at 6 p.m. That was it,” said one Reddit user. “Now we have six hours of local news and 24 hours of cable news.”
Not being bombarded with all-day news meant that when you saw “Breaking News” on the screen, you knew something serious went down earlier that day.
RSVP Meaning Something
RSVPing to events really mattered before social media meant you could click “maybe” and decide later on. If you said you were going to be there, you made sure to be there.
“None of this Facebook invites that everyone blows off without any form of social repercussions,” said one Reddit user. “If you said you were going to go and didn't go, you were the a**hole, and everyone knew it.”
Being Truly Present
Leaving home and just being gone for the day is a unique concept that many people have reported missing the most. No cell phones, and if there were cameras back then, it was really different.
“You used cameras to take pictures of things or had people take pictures of you. But there was no social media to preoccupy your mind,” said one Reddit user. “It was just doing something. And whoever you were with was who you were with.”
Video Game Magazines
The thrill of getting a new video game in the mail just doesn’t compare to Googling walkthroughs or watching YouTube videos of game play.
“The thrill of getting a video game magazine in the mail (often multiple because I had several different subscriptions) to read up on the next thing coming out, strategies for games that recently came out and just the fun articles about related material were some of my favorite memories,” said one Reddit user.
Not Being Overwhelmed by Choice
“Don't get me wrong, having nearly every form of media downloadable is great,” said one Reddit user.
“But back in the day, I rented a video game and I played that video game as much as I could. Now, it's hard to give it more than 2 seconds before I try one of the 20,000 games I have access to.”
Finishing Work at 5 P.M.
Finishing work at 5 p.m. is extremely uncommon these days — and many people shared how much they miss being able to walk away from the job at the end of the day and not look back.
Work didn't start again until you walked through the door the next morning — and nobody knew what you were up to during your time off.
Time to Process Information and Life Events
Life before the internet also gave you time to process information, especially when it was something bad or major.
“Now we’re constantly bombarded with what seems like bad thing after bad thing and then everyone’s opinion on it all over social media,” said one Reddit user.
“I miss spacing out,” shared one Reddit user. “Like, you could legit just sit on a bench or ride a bus and space out completely, letting your mind wander into those creative zones.
“Now, phones/tech makes it much harder to get there.”
Researching a New Hobby
Many people reported missing being able to start a new hobby without worrying about immediately being the best or comparing yourself to others online.
“Having an idea, finding a new hobby or skill set or project to work on, going to the library or bookstore to educate yourself about it, start learning and growing and excited about a new passion…” one Reddit user mused.
Traveling Without Technology
“When I backpacked through Europe in 2013 at age 25, I left my phone in the U.S. My mom flipped, of course, but I sent her an email from an internet cafe letting her know,” shared one Reddit user.
“It was terrifying, scary, and I spent hours and hours lost looking for places, but it was worth it for the experience. I went a second time the following year and took my phone. I spent too much time lost and didn't get to do everything I wanted in each city.”
Many people also longed for childhood innocence — adding that the ease at which even a kid can gain access to the scariest of content (or super serious content) has become such a drastic change from the 1990s or early 2000s.
Looking Forward to Something
Multiple people mentioned missing the need to wait for the next episode of your favorite show or newest video of your favorite band — or even looking forward to seeing people.
The act of looking information up and being curious … “It seemed like there was so much more to look forward to,” they said.
Random Visits From Friends
Although these days it would be largely considered weird or socially unacceptable, many people reported to miss people just stopping by your house.
“You would be just sitting there drinking beer or scratching your a** and boom, someone’s at the door,” said one Reddit user.
Contemplating Meaningless Facts
“I miss debating what I'd call the ‘little unknowns’ with your friends,” said one Reddit user. “You know, bringing up an obscure TV show that nobody seems to remember and insisting you didn't imagine it, or the lyrics to an old jingle for an ad campaign that had been off the air for several years, or some weirdness that happened on a local channel three towns over that you heard about from your cousin when he was last in town...”
Because you didn't have access to the wealth of information you have today, you could spend hours debating about anything without Google at your fingertips to clear things up in an instant.
The Ability to Start Fresh
“I moved a lot, so with every move, I could reinvent myself — bookworm, punk, preppie — I got to try out lots of aspects of my personality and my past wasn't a factor,” shared one Reddit user.
These days, everything you’ve done is so well-documented, starting fresh is pretty much out of the question.
The Smell of Encyclopedia Britannicas
“My father was a teacher, and we had encyclopedias in our house,” shared one Reddit user.
“We were the only family on the street that had them. The neighborhood kids would come over and ask to use them.”
“For me, it would be less negativity,” said one Reddit user. “Back then I was less aware of what was going on around the world outside of where I lived, but now, it’s almost instant coverage of the bad things happening everywhere.”
Really Appreciating a Live Concert
Many people shared the longing for appreciating a live show without taking pictures or seeing others on their phones.
“I miss seeing people watching an event like a concert with their own eyes and ears instead of through their phone cameras,” said one Reddit user.
Playing Board Games With Friends
“Playing board games was more fun,” said one Reddit user. “The weird premises were exciting and everyone seemed to have patience and desire to play.
“Now, even if you get a group of people that like board games in a room to play, people lose interest or are on their phones.”
Having Fewer Shopping Options
“Sure there were mail catalogs and QVC, but for the most part, your options were limited to your local store’s inventory,” shared one Reddit user.
“I feel like I spend so much time looking through options now for literally everything, from sofas to shampoo.”