Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

What Do You Miss About Life Before The Digital Age?

It's #unplug week here at Fast Company. Let's dig into our reader reminiscences of analog things past.

This week, coinciding with our #unplug week, we’re asking a series of questions about just that: freeing yourself from the digital world.

To kick things off, we thought it appropriate to focus on the days before everyone had a Facebook page and racked up hundreds (if not thousands) of texts and tweets each month. You remember those days, right?

It's safe to say you do, because our question clearly touched a (digitized) nerve, bringing in nearly 200 responses.

What do you miss (if anything) about life before the digital age?

Let the nostalgia flow!

Human contact (or a guilt-free lack of) was a biggie

If anything brings you back to the days before email and video chats, it's receiving a handwritten letter in the mail. Do you remember the excitement of opening an envelope to find a message scribbled in something other than Arial or Helvetica font?

Handwritten letters last and have meaning. There's much more than the words on the paper—you're not just getting a letter, but a slice of another person's life.

Besides, who's going to print a Christmas email and put it above the mantel, or hang a birthday text on the fridge? There's nothing quite like receiving a letter that's been penned (that's right, written with a pen) specifically for you. Give it a try—we guarantee you'll make someone's day.

Oh, the glory days, when it was perfectly okay to say you missed a call, or weren't near a phone. Now, your friends know when you read their text messages, when you're online, and it's impossible to "miss" a call without insulting them.

Sometimes we just want to be left alone, okay? (And no, it doesn't mean we don't like you.)

If you're dating someone and want to call it quits, the least you can do is give them (and your reputation) the decency of a face-to-face conversation. Also: Never text during movies.

The hits just keep coming . . .

This one's for you, Maurice, you gangster of love.

This response was one of our favorites. Do you remember the days when boredom was okay? Instead of picking up your phone or surfing the web, why not pick up a book, or take a walk in nature?

There is a world away from the screen. Really.

Oh, and don't forget: Boredom is key to your creativity.

So MTV is over 30 years old. They're old, and used to play—gaspmusic, among other awesome things.

That's all for now, but you might want to bookmark this article for that awkward conversation when your child asks, the bright glow of an iPhone upon their face: "Mom, Dad... what was life like before Angry Birds?"

[Image: Flickr user Bradley Gordon]

Add New Comment


  • Christophe

    How should this looking back help us move forward? In a next article, will you ask people what they don't want to miss about the analog/digital coexistence anymore? I could tell you a few stories …

    I understand there's momentum for #unplug, I just don't think talking about "those days" and nostalgia doesn't really help. What about our kids? What are their "these days" and what will nostalgia mean for them?

  • The Wrong Agency

    It raises interesting questions about authenticity & 'The authentic life' - how do you achieve this hidden behind a screen, lost in a world mediated by a few universal fonts, on a handful of 'social' platforms.

    In an over-communicated world - we seem to have lost the power to communicate on a basic, visceral level.

  • Katelyn DeVan

    I miss surprise letters in the mail, handwritten notes, and I never thought I'd say this - but the occasional feeling of boredom. Not because being bored is so great, but now even when work is over and kids are in bed, the allure of constant, real-time news updates and articles is a massive distraction from some often much-needed "shut off" time. The time that might have previously been spent decompressing on the couch or taking a walk or going to bed early "just because".

  • ohhsnapshot

    How about the face to face contact when you apply for a job. Now you have to apply online with 600 other people and your chances are slim to none.

  • KellyECrawford

    I greatly miss hearing the sound of my best friend's voice. We used to have "epic" phone conversations (at least 1 or 2 hours) reconnecting with each other every week or so. Hearing the inflection and tone of another person's voice can't hold a candle to the distance and coldness of texting. Unless a text message is blatant and literal, I can't tell how someone truly feels.

  • Chris Kelly

    For all our digital social-ness. I find myself more connected and more isolated. Meeting people in the real world is hard enough without the digital barrier. I miss human contact.

  • Sarah Young

    I miss appropriate behavior when someone dies. It is not appropriate to post "Sorry about your news! (sad face)" on someone's Facebook when they lose someone, and I certainly don't want a text message offering support.