Monday, January 11, 2016

Social media in 1980

When crusty old folk like me moan that the young whippersnappers of today are obsessed with social media and spend all their time staring at their phones instead of talking to each other, it’s often pointed out that we were never any good at talking to each other. Back in the 1980s, we used to listen to cassette tapes and watch TV: this generation has simply found new ways of ignoring each other.

And, I have to admit, that’s entirely correct. We tend to see our own childhoods through rose-tinted glasses, but they were just as awful back then as they are now. To illustrate the point, here’s a dramatization of a typical scene from 1980. Mr and Mrs Smith and their good friends, Mr and Mrs Jones, have gone out for a meal together. They’ve just ordered, and are waiting for their meals to arrive.

Mrs Smith: Hey, did you see Shoestring last night?

Mr Smith: Yes, brilliant episode! The bit where—

Mrs Jones: Oh, no, please don’t say any more! I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve been videotaping it, you see, so I don’t want to hear any spoilers.

Mr Smith: Oh, sorry.

(There is an awkward silence.)

Mr Jones: Well... we’ve been getting some awful weather lately.

Mrs Smith: Yes, but they say it should clear up in the next day or two.

Mrs Jones: Really? (She takes a sheaf of paper out of her bag and unfolds them. They’re meteorological maps.) Ah yes, it looks like this system will bring warm weather up from the Azores.

Mr Smith: The Azores? Are you sure?

Mrs Jones: Those are the Azores, aren't they?

Mr Smith: I’m pretty sure those are the Balearic Islands.

Mr Jones: Easy way to settle this. (He throws a large atlas onto the table, opens it up and starts flicking through the pages.) Hang on... North America... South America... Africa... hmm, page 352...

Mrs Jones: I don’t really think it’s that important...

Mr Jones: Hush! ...around here somewhere...

Mrs Smith: Anyway, how’s your Eric? Still at—

Mr Jones: AHA! Here they are! And... they’re not the Azores or the Balearics. Those are the Canary Islands.

(A phone rings.)

Mrs Jones: Oh, sorry, I have to answer this one. Do excuse me. (She takes a large, ringing, rotary-dial telephone out of her bag and lifts the receiver.) Yes? ... No, it’s in the living room. ... I told you. ... Well, use your eyes! ... On the coffee table. ... No, the coffee table. ... Okay, good. ... No, that’s fine. ... About ten-thirty. ... Good. ... Listen, I can’t talk now. ... See you then. ... Bye. (She hangs up.) Sorry about that. Typical Bridget.

Mr Jones: Bridget! Tsk!

Couldn’t blame autocorrect in those days.
(A breathless messenger jogs into the restaurant.)

Messenger: Text message for Mr Smith!

Mr Smith: That’s me! (The messenger gives him the message.) Excuse me just one moment. (He heaves a typewriter onto the table, feeds in a sheet of paper, types a few words, and hands the paper to the messenger.) Reply with this, please.

Mr Jones: Ah, here comes the food.

(A couple of waiters serve the food.)

Mr Smith: Right, then. (He grabs his Polaroid camera and takes a photograph of his food. Then he takes the photo to the door of the restaurant, opens the door, and holds up the photograph for all to see.) TUCKING IN TO THIS! HASHTAG FOODPORN!

Some passers-by: LIKE!

Another passer-by: YOU SUCK!

Mrs Jones: Isn’t modern technology wonderful?

(A town cryer walks into the restaurant and rings his bell.)

Town cryer: Hear ye! Hear ye! Ten scary things you should know about ABBA! Number seven will blow your mind!

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