48 Things That Were Way Harder “Back in the Day”
Remember when you had to dial into the Internet or make a mixtape? These throwback hardships will have you nodding—and laughing—along.
Scoring a date
Back before the advent of dating websites, dating was so much harder, it’s a wonder people met at all (OK, maybe we’re exaggerating). But the thing was, to meet people, you’d actually have to leave your house—go to bars, go to parties, join clubs—or have friends generous enough to set you up with their friends. Or, maybe you’d peruse the personal ads, say, in the back of New York Magazine. The Internet changed all that. Match.com went live in 1995. In 1998, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan met cute in an Internet chat room in You’ve Got Mail. At the turn of the millennium, eHarmony launched to provide a platform for people looking for serious relationships, and it wasn’t long before all manner of dating sites began popping up all over the internet, offering something for everyone.
In 2007, the launch of smartphones enabled the launch of Zoosk, one of the first dating apps. Somewhat ironically, the mobility offered by dating apps enables users to leave their homes while still participating in online dating. Yet somehow, it seems that as dating apps have proliferated, people have even less need to go anywhere in order to find a date.
As far back as 2002, I have recollections of single friends talking about a website called Lavalife, which allowed you to search for a date, a relationship, or a hookup. Although the notion of “hooking up” began in the 1920s and became a cultural phenomenon in the 1960s (and a potential nightmare after Looking For Mister Goodbar), it was only with the advent of location- and swiping-based dating apps in 2012 that things really began to change. Tinder was the first to allow you to search for “matches” who were physically near you right this very minute. For those who are so inclined, hooking up became as easy as swiping right and arranging a time and place.
Getting the scoop on your date/hookup
Back in the day, hooking up with someone you met in a bar would entail going home with a complete stranger about whom you knew nothing. Nowadays, at least you can Google them, assuming they haven’t given you a fake name. If you match with them on Tinder, which requires a Facebook account to sign up, presumably they’re a “real person” with a Facebook page that you can stalk for at least five minutes before deciding whether to meet. Presumably. In reality, there’s no shortage of fake names and identities on Tinder and the like (and, apparently, on Facebook). Nevertheless, if you do ask for a name, Google can be your friend (and a friend those in prior generations never had).
When it comes to dating, your prospects for getting the dirt on your date are far better than they ever were back in the day. Before Internet search engines and background check websites such as Checkmate and BeenVerified, hopefully you met your dates through friends because you had to rely on word of mouth to learn anything about anyone. If not, you were pretty much out of information and out of luck.
Getting where you’re going without getting lost
I still have disturbing recollections of stopping in gas stations for directions and staring with glazed eyes as I tried to remember, “turn right at the light, and then two blocks down, make the third turn out of the traffic circle,” even as it all blurred into “blah blah blah.” If you were more organized back in the day, you had the presence of mind to get directions beforehand and carefully write them on a slip of paper. Still, you had to consult them while you were driving. Hello, distracted driving?
Nowadays, you almost definitely have some form of navigation system, whether it’s built into your car or a downloadable app like Waze, Google Maps, or any number of similar apps. Some of them even help you figure out which route has the least amount of traffic or tolls. Nowadays, you can even use them to figure out where you’re going on foot or on by bike. Getting lost is no longer an option, which means it’s no longer an excuse for being late.
Getting away with being late
The thing about being late is that it’s really annoying to the people who are waiting for you. Back in the day, it was particularly excruciating in the absence of mobile phones, text messaging and the like. If you were on the road, and the traffic was bad, you couldn’t let anyone know. They’d just have to wait. And wait. Nowadays, the chronically late among us have a secret trick we used to take being late entirely off the table: we text you to let you know we’re “running late” (“running” late is different from “being” late) and when we will actually be there. When we arrive at the newly appointed time, we’re no longer late, at least according to us. Full disclosure: This only works when whoever is waiting for you is feeling generous.
Sounding like you know stuff
Back in the day, you came upon your knowledge the old-fashioned way: You read/listened/learned, and if you wanted to show off your shiny new knowledge, you had to commit it to memory so you could pull it up on the fly. Nowadays, you can look anything up online in a matter of seconds. As long as you’re not standing right next to the person you’re talking to, you can whip out your phone, Google whatever you want to sound like you know and convey it—without the person you’re talking to realizing there was even a pause in the conversation.
You can even make it seem as if you speak another language: just plug a word or phrase into one of those automatic translation websites, like Google Translate or Babelfish, et voila. Suddenly, you parle français or hablas español like a boss!
So, what about if your date’s been repeatedly late, or can tell you’ve been pulling your facts off of Wikipedia? If things aren’t going well, nowadays you can just disappear into the ether. It’s called ghosting, it’s really, really, really disturbing to anyone who is on the receiving end, and it wasn’t as easy to pull off back in the day.
See, back in the days before dating apps, we tended to date people we knew or traveled in the same circles with. Now, you can meet virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime. While it’s easy to find out if they’ve got a DUI or a domestic violence charge pending, it’s not so easy to find out if they have a tendency to disappear off the face of the planet after a couple of dates (or a couple of years). And the other side of the coin is that because you may have known exactly zero people in common and don’t frequent the same bars, restaurants, clubs, and social gatherings, it’s very easy to simply disappear off the face of the planet at any time. You simply never call, never text, never email, ever again. OK, we’ll admit we think it’s rude. But hey, we’re sticklers for etiquette. Check out these things that will probably be illegal in 50 years.
Maybe you’re past ghosting and onto a long-term relationship. Maybe you’re past the honeymoon phase and feel like exploring, but you don’t really feel like breaking up either. We’re not recommending it, but there’s always the option to cheat. Back in the day, cheating took quite a bit of effort. You had to find someone with whom you wanted to cheat, which might have involved the same sort of efforts as finding a date. But then the ante went up: you had to make sure the person you wanted to cheat with was either unaware that you were attached or willing to disregard it. Nowadays? Easy peasy. There’s an app for that. It’s called Ashley Madison, and that’s just one of many that eliminate these hurdles because presumably, anyone who’s on an app designed for cheating is both looking to cheat and on board with cheating.
Selling your stuff
So perhaps cheating wasn’t such a good idea after all. Perhaps you got caught. Or perhaps you realized it just wasn’t fair to be playing the field while your partner played by the rules. In any event, your break-up means you can finally get rid of that ugly sofa your girlfriend picked out for you. Back in the day, if you wanted to sell it, you’d have to take out an ad in the newspaper or put up flyers in the kitchen at your office. Nowadays, you’ve got options. You can advertise it on Facebook or Craigslist. You can auction it off on eBay. You can Google a charity that’s willing to pick up your used furniture. Also see if you have any of these valuable antiques that are worth a fortune.
Getting tested for STDs
If you’re back on the dating scene, or even if you’re just trying to stay ahead of the healthy curve, it’s never a bad time to think about getting tested for STDs. And there’s no reason not to since nowadays, it’s so very easy. Whereas back in the day, you had to actually go to a doctor’s office or a clinic, put on a paper gown, and answer a lot of uncomfortable questions face-to-face, these days, you can do it at home.