On being a half-curmudgeon

This is a very perceptive article that hits home for me as an early millennial (I was born in 1985):

We’re an enigma, those of us born at the tail end of the 70s and the start of the 80s. …

A big part of what makes us the square peg in the round hole of named generations is our strange relationship with technology and the internet. We came of age just as the very essence of communication was experiencing a seismic shift, and it’s given us a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.

You Have Died of Dysentery

If you can distinctly recall the excitement of walking into your weekly computer lab session and seeing a room full of Apple 2Es displaying the start screen of Oregon Trail, you’re a member of this nameless generation, my friend.

Oregon Trail! I remember it well, especially the hilarity of being told by the computer that I had just died of dysentery or a snake bite. The other stuff, too – computer lab, Apple IIe’s running software off 5.25″ floppy disks, dial-up internet, card catalogs in the library – been there, done that. The author captures the era perfectly.

I played LucasArts games like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle, and The Secret of Monkey Island obsessively on my family’s home computer, which we bought in the mid-90s. It wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I opened a personal email account (AOL). Facebook didn’t exist when I was in high school.

I distinctly remember using pay phones to call home during my first few weeks or months at college. I quickly got my first cell phone, but of course it was a basic flip phone that only allowed for calling, texting, and taking grainy photos. The first iPhone was introduced almost exactly 10 years ago, when I was a senior in college. (I’ve never owned one.)

It turns out that being born in the mid-80s was a really smart move, because as the article says:

Because we had one foot in the traditional ways of yore and one foot in the digital information age, we appreciate both in a way that other generations don’t. We can quickly turn curmudgeonly in the face of teens who’ve never written a letter, but we’re glued to our smartphones just like they are.

Those born in the late 70s and early 80s were the last group to have a childhood devoid of all the technology that makes childhood and adolescence today pretty much the worst thing imaginable. We were the last gasp of a time before sexting, Facebook shaming, and constant communication.

This is exactly correct. I can’t even imagine spending my formative years glued to a smartphone and social media, and the effect that would have on my personality and character. I feel that I can unplug from the internet anytime I want without psychic anguish, because I grew up before the internet had become the ubiquitous, Matrix-like entity it is today. As much as I enjoy and depend on the internet as an adult, my core personality is solidly anchored in a slower, simpler, less connected world, which is nice – although I guess any post-industrial generation can say the same thing. I’ll still say it, though.

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