My Life Before Smartphones Proves That Memory Can Be Deceiving

Getting bored can be a good thing, but no one wants to.

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The other day, I was killing some time at the airport. I was on my phone, obviously. Scrolling through Twitter X, I came across an article from The Atlantic, the bible for hipsters, titled What Did People Do Before Smartphones?

The page hadn't finished loading yet, but I was already thinking of how I would spend my days before I had my smartphone. Those were the times when I would call my first girlfriend using a landline phone because mobile phones were expensive then. I would nervously wait for her to answer and sometimes end up awkwardly babbling to her father, “Good afternoon, sir. May I please speak to your daughter?”

The Memory Trap

Apart from those moments when I was scared s***less, I started to feel a deceptive sense of nostalgia. Our minds tend to romanticize the past, gloss over what we’d rather forget, and make us believe that the past was better. Big mistake.

It’s not just me. With the rise of social media and instant messaging, nostalgic remarks praising people who have the willpower to live without smartphones or at least live without using the most popular apps are becoming increasingly common.

Caught up in this deceptive nostalgia, I began to think that we used to live more freely. Before, we were less addicted and dependent on constant interactions, instant information, our virtual selves, short videos, and fantasy leagues. I soon found myself asking the same question that I did when I opened that article: What on Earth were we doing back then?

I agree that boredom can be beneficial. It compels us to think and reflect, allowing us to appreciate the ordinary and delve deeper into our thoughts. However, it also deprives of us potential opportunities.

A life without smartphones might mean missing out on discovering new music, learning from insightful podcasts, reading eye-opening articles, or making game-changing discoveries to apply in our home life, like using baking soda and white vinegar for cleaning.

Life before the smartphone saved us from today’s problems, but I have serious doubts that it was better.

Without the inertia-driven habit of searching the internet to fill time, we would’ve missed out on lot of valuable content. There’s also a lot of stupid, boring, expendable content, but I guess that's a price you always have to pay.

We all have one weakness or another. Without a smartphone, I wouldn't have been able to photograph or record the moments of everyday life. These scenes are the ones that I'll miss the most one day, when the house I grew up in belongs to someone else’s family, or when we sit down for dinner on Christmas Eve and I can’t stop thinking about those who are no longer with us.

My smartphone allows me to always have a camera at hand. Without one, I’m sure there would be many beautiful everyday moments that could only be stored in my memory, which can be fragile in the long term. I prefer the cloud as my ultimate backup.

When we didn’t have smartphones, other weaknesses used to cause more trouble in the past than they do now–being late to important events, or learning about family deaths too late to say goodbye, for instance. These inconveniences were much worse than simply being bored.

In The Athlantic article we mentioned before, writer Ian Bogost concludes that while we may be too distracted now, we used to be too bored. He points out that there were far worse consequences than calling your girlfriend at 4 p.m. and having her father, a good-natured yet intimidating man, answer the phone.

Image | Xataka On and Midjourney

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