100 Things We've Lost to the Internet
The acclaimed editor of The New York Times Book Review takes readers on a nostalgic tour of the pre-Internet age, offering powerful insights into both the profound and the seemingly trivial things we've lost.
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY CHICAGO TRIBUNE AND THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS • “A deft blend of nostalgia, humor and devastating insights.”—People
Remember all those ingrained habits, cherished ideas, beloved objects, and stubborn preferences from the pre-Internet age? They’re gone.
To some of those things we can say good riddance. But many we miss terribly. Whatever our emotional response to this departed realm, we are faced with the fact that nearly every aspect of modern life now takes place in filtered, isolated corners of cyberspace—a space that has slowly subsumed our physical habitats, replacing or transforming the office, our local library, a favorite bar, the movie theater, and the coffee shop where people met one another’s gaze from across the room. Even as we’ve gained the ability to gather without leaving our house, many of the fundamentally human experiences that have sustained us have disappeared.
In one hundred glimpses of that pre-Internet world, Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, presents a captivating record, enlivened with illustrations, of the world before cyberspace—from voicemails to blind dates to punctuation to civility. There are the small losses: postcards, the blessings of an adolescence largely spared of documentation, the Rolodex, and the genuine surprises at high school reunions. But there are larger repercussions, too: weaker memories, the inability to entertain oneself, and the utter demolition of privacy.
100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internet is at once an evocative swan song for a disappearing era and, perhaps, a guide to reclaiming just a little bit more of the world IRL.
The dislocations of the internet era get the listicle treatment in this charming if superficial survey. New York Times Book Review editor Paul (Rectangle Time) inventories "the things we achingly miss, the things we hardly knew existed, the things to which we can give a hard adios," including such behaviors as ignoring people ("It was useful to pretend to have no idea someone was trying to reach you") and "being in the moment" during a concert or other large gathering, rather than gazing at one's phone; qualities including patience and civility; and physical items like kitchen phones and checkbooks. "Every time the Internet swings the door wide open," Paul contends, "the consequences are at once liberating and dire." Previously, everyday life was "unimpeded by what was going on in other people's heads"; now, however, "the input never stops." While Paul occasionally brings in statistics and expert analysis, her rants are generally an accomplished solo act, enriched by her self-deprecating sense of humor (she describes her book as "grumpy old-man thoughts and wary skepticism, lashed through with a contrary streak of optimism"). Readers who remember the dawning of the internet era will find plenty to commiserate with in this mostly lighthearted lament. Illus.