BEFORE THE Internet, people called you on the phone to wish you a happy birthday. They may also have sent a birthday card in the regular, old-fashioned mail. You might get three or four cards a day for a few days before and after your birthday, and even a couple of presents from friends who lived far away. It was fun—a lot more fun than the “Happy Birthday!” messages that show up on Facebook after people who couldn’t care less clicked a reminder button that sent the message automatically.
Before cell phones, you had to be home to get a phone call. And if you were out and wanted to call someone, you had to find a pay phone. You couldn’t talk on the phone in an elevator or a grocery store, or on an airplane or train or bus, or in the waiting room at the doctor’s, making everyone around you hate your guts and hope your head explodes.
Before Facebook, you kind of sort of knew that there were loony tunes and hideously mean people out there in the world, but you didn’t have to interact with them on a daily basis unless they were family members, and even then not if you could help it.
Before Google, everyone you ever met or might meet or who might hire you wouldn’t know all your past mistakes. You could maintain a shred of dignity, living without fear that nude photos of you taken by a jilted boyfriend 20 years ago when you had one drink too many would suddenly be everywhere. And you never had to know who was gay and who wasn’t, thus allowing you to dream about Montgomery Clift all you wanted, believing if only you could meet him you might have a chance.
Before Google Earth, lunatics couldn’t find out exactly where you live and come to your front door with a shotgun, or even a box of chocolates, uninvited.
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.