Innocence lost: what did you do before the internet?

Anindita | August 5, 2019 | 0 | Internet

People born in the late 1970s are the last to have grown up without the internet. Social scientists call them the Last of the Innocents. Leah McLaren ponders a time when our attention was allowed to wander

An illustration of the back of a woman, lying on a hillside, looking up at the sky, flowers either side of her
Yawning gap: days of nothing are a ‘soon-to-be lost plane of human experience’. Illustration: Nathalie Lees

In moments of digital anxiety I find myself thinking of my father’s desk. Dad was a travelling furniture salesman in the 1980s, a job that served him well in the years before globalisation hobbled the Canadian manufacturing sector. He was out on the road a lot, but when he worked from home he sat in his office, a small windowless study dominated by a large teak desk. There wasn’t much on it – synthetic upholstery swatches, a mug of pens, a lamp, a phone, an ashtray. And yet every day Dad spent hours there, making notes, smoking Craven “A”s, drinking coffee and yakking affably to small-town retailers about shipments of sectional sofas and dinette sets. This is what I find so amazing. That my father – like most other professionals of his generation and generations before him – was able to earn a salary and support our family with little more than a phone and a stack of papers. Just thinking of his desk, the emptiness of it, induces in me a strange disorientation and loneliness. How did he sit there all day, I wonder, without the internet to keep him company?

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