Almost everyone spends most of their life online these days, and the younger you are, the more screen time you will spend.
With the Internet being so central to life, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time it just… didn’t exist.
But as wild as it may seem to many young people today, if you’re of a certain age, you remember those pre-internet days very well – and probably very fondly.
Reddit users take a look at teenage life before the internet.
People on Reddit have explored those halcyon analog days in a thread on the NoStupidQuestions subReddit where someone asked “pre-internet teenagers” what they did in their free time.
The answers are a real trip down memory lane for many of us and a reminder that we all live in a very different world.
Mixtapes… So many mixtapes…
By far, the most popular answers to the question of what pre-internet teenagers did were related to music—specifically, the painstaking creation of mixtapes.
Today, people put together a Spotify playlist like it’s nothing, but doing it before the internet? Well, it was a *project* – especially since, as several Redditors have recalled, you had to record the songs off the radio.
As one said, “It took too long to wait for the radio to play your favorite songs so you could record them.” And that, of course, came after a long process of “constantly calling the radio station and asking them to play” your favorite song, as someone else put it.
After getting ready to record the song, you faced a different problem: “I hope the DJ didn’t talk at the end.”
In fact, several Redditors have buried deep memories of DJs doing just that – ruining mixtapes with their over-the-top jabber. As one narrates:
“Nearly 30 years later, whenever I hear ‘Dreams’ by the Cranberries, I’m still half way through expecting a DJ to cut it to the end with his terrible yodeling, because that’s what happened on the recording I made,” recalled one user.
When shopping malls have a place to be.
Redditors mentioned many activities they did before the internet, and visiting the local mall was at the top of many people’s lists.
Nowadays, we tend to think of malls as sort of… well, play places – places we go as a last resort when we can’t find what we want on Amazon or all the other myriad online shopping platforms.
But before the internet, it was malls for kids the a place to see and be seen. Tons of Redditors fondly remember hanging out at malls across America and splurging on food court cookies.
One Redditor recalled that if they weren’t at home, talking on the phone for “hours,” they were “hanging out at the mall with friends,” hanging out at the video arcade and movie theater where every mall used to be.
When it was MTV, everything was important.
Music videos are now almost exclusively an internet business, with artists maintaining their own YouTube video playlists for their fans. But there was a time when shows like “Catfish” and “Teen Mom” were even glittering in everyone’s eyes, MTV was a channel that showed nothing but music videos.
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Like the whole mixtape debacle, before the internet, kids spent hours in front of their TVs waiting for their favorite videos to play. As one Redditor recalled:
“I remember staying up until midnight to watch Eminem’s Encore release on MTV. I think I was like 9 or 10 or something and I got really stiff because I didn’t go to bed. I think I taped a show my parents were watching or something.”
Yes, with the latest episode of MTV’s Total Request Live, the fiery drama that ensues when you accidentally tape episodes of your mom’s Murder She Wrote… Kids today will never understand!
John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer covering pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.