I'm Time Traveling Back to 1998 This Weekend

in life •  last year 



I was sixteen years old, and hadn't gotten my driver's license yet. We had a TV at my parents' house, but it had no cable because we lived out in the middle of the woods and the cable company wouldn't run infrastructure that far out. Our family computer was used for word processing only. The internet was a thing I explored out of boredom during thirty minute computer reservations in the school library. And it didn't do much to relieve the boredom, because in 1998, there wasn't anything that cool on the internet. Cell phones existed, but they had no cameras, no apps, no web surfing, no texting, even...and no one in my family had one.

When I wasn't in school, I spent most of my time writing (either in notebooks or on the un-networked computer in our dining room), reading books, and taking walks outside.

Perhaps this is cliche, but I sometimes miss the simplicity of the 90s, and not just out of nostalgia for an idyllic childhood in the woods. It was easier to daydream. Easier to follow the imagination where it led you. Without the digital distractions of the Age of Information, it felt so much easier to create weird stuff in my notebook or just in my mind.

None of this is to say that I don't appreciate the hell out of modern technology. I think it's wonderful to have all the knowledge of humankind available to me at the touch of a finger, to be able to store thousands of books on a device smaller than one physical book, and to have the opportunity to meet interesting people online who I never would have encountered IRL. And it's not as if I never write, or read books, or go for walks. It's just...different.

I think it's good to take a break once in a while. So this weekend, I'm returning to 1998 for at least 48 hours.

I'm disconnecting the internet and turning off my phone. I'm leaving my car parked at my mom's house so I won't give into the temptation to go to the store for some random thing I forgot I needed. I'm going to stay home in the woods, write in notebooks (or on my laptop, but without the ability to jump down a fathomless research rabbit-hole), meditate, daydream, eat snacks, read books, and take walks.

My husband and daughter are going away for the weekend, and I have no pressing errands or client work to do, so it's a perfect time for me to take a little retreat from the digital world. But if it goes as sweetly as I anticipate, I'll probably institute a monthly 1998 weekend for myself.

See y'all in a couple days, when I return to 2018!


Hi, I'm Starr!

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16 in 1998? You baby you!

I was 22 and married for a year! But that's around the time we first went on-line. It took ages for us to get any kind of broadband but we were dialing up on the daily to check newsgroups (alt.smokers.pipes especially) and browse and build our own sites. That's when I got my first job at a local tobacconist, and they had big plans for the internet. And that's when you could still believe one kid working on a Packard Bell in the back office could really handle e-commerce.

I agree that the digital sabbatical is a healthy idea. Especially when your day job involves working on computers as well.

I grew up in similar conditions where in my young life we didn't have internet at all and when we got internet it was dial up until I was in high school. I grew up on a farm instead of the woods but conceptually it's similar in access. A few Antennae TV stations, books, and the outdoors. I spent a lot of time down by the creek. Whenever I spend a day back there away from the outside world it leaves me feeling refreshed.

I think a lot of people miss out on time away from it all and I think there's a healthy psychological component to giving yourself that sort of break. People spend years at a time constantly seeing what other people are doing via social media and then wonder why they don't feel fulfilled. Whenever I start feeling too "in the matrix" I'll go chop some wood or lay in a hammock and relax under a tree away from it all even just for a day. I have yet to do this and not feel happy and refreshed.

I hope you enjoy your break!