Sure, the technology we keep in our back pockets and frequently take for granted is enough to make our ancestors totally question their grip on reality. Ever think about going back in time and showing some great-great-great grandparent the iPhone? Their minds would be blown. If they returned to the village babbling about what they just saw, they would be put away.
The point is, most of us have access to an absolutely mind-boggling amount of technology and information. And it's a good thing, a great thing- to a point. The Internet is the gathering place of all knowledge and that’s beautiful but also less than beautiful for parents raising children. There are reasons to not involve that level of technology in family life moving forward. But for every iPhone removed from a household, its absence has to be replaced with at least a dozen other gadgets that do its jobs. So, hypothetically, if a household were to have its smart-tech removed, what new (but actually old) items would replace it?
On one hand, there’s the utility and safety element of staying in touch with the kids via cellphones and the necessity of replacing that with walkie-talkies. And on the other hand… imagine it’s twilight in July and the whole family (maybe even some of the neighbors) are playing freeze tag or are in the final stretch of a scavenger hunt. Your voice crackles from your kid’s pocket as you refer to them by some awesome code name, like the Scarlet Eaglet. Sure, cell phones do the same job but it’s not at all the same. That’s why life with walkie-talkies is so much sweeter.
Fine, a Britney Spears t-shirt doesn’t exist to fill the void any iPhone or Android leaves behind. It exists purely for itself and the joy that induces. It’s just very, very fun to wear and feel the envy of every other same-aged mom because you were the one who thought to invest in this shirt. And it brings back some gorgeous old memories. No amount of technology could ever take the place of a vintage Britney Spears’ tour shirt that cost an amount of money that’s not acceptable to mention in public, and isn’t that the beauty of it?
I’m going to venture a guess that a ton of the world’s population doesn’t know how to read an analog clock. Let’s guess… 65%? That’s astronomical and yet feels right. Reading a clock is a simple skill that feels outdated and dumb until the iPhone’s battery has run out, and you’re face to face with a gigantic clock. And there’s no other way to tell when the train is coming. It sounds like a ridiculous dystopian scenario, but it’s plausible. And in those moments, the kids will be glad you taught them how to read a watch.
Smartphones replace so many household items. The number of staple objects that became obsolete when the iPhone rolled out is slightly unsettling. Of course, that includes egg timers- cooking is all about timing and baking even more so. It’s fair to say that timing is more important in baking than it is in comedy. And timing’s everything in comedy! The point is if the iPhone is on its way out in a household looking to cut down on tech- the timer is on its way in. Even if it’s just so someone can get some shut eye while the muffins bake.
Sure, there’s vinyl as a way to listen to music. There’s the cartoonish image of the very stereotypical and annoying vinyl fan who brags about how the sound quality is superior to anything else. Then there’s the normal person who just likes collecting something. Either category in consideration, that’s not a medium that can be taken along on a run. It’s not a very versatile or transportable way to listen to music. What’s one secret little back alley to listening to music without investing in the slippery slope that is a smartphone? Just devolve the smartphone a bit and there’s your answer. A good old shuffle iPod. Or like… a Zune?
Is there a better metaphor turned purchasable product for the identity swapping of childhood than these things? Existential implications aside, these are just so fun. There’s no commitment to trying on a pair and only the delight of seeing your reflection with these on. Plus, it doesn’t matter if you’re in your 30’s and have ear piercings (or multiple ear piercings!), it’s still a very fun afternoon to salvage a package of these, divvy them up amongst the kids and then choose your very own pair. The stick-on earrings are worth the eBay battle it took to claim them- surprise everybody with some of these.
Sure, there are young parents these days cool enough not to take issue with their child getting tattoos (someday). That being said, even the most chill of parental figures can acknowledge that tattoos are very, very expensive. Y’know what doesn’t cost a fraction of the bill an actual tattoo incurs? Oh, baby, it’s those temporary tattoos. Especially for young kids, it quells the need for personalization and choice and at the end of the day- it still washes off. It’s a silly item to have been invented and yet it’s also genius. What a beautiful middle ground to strike- to be both frivolous and kind of sort of very validating. How many objects can claim that?
Lisa Frank may be a gigantic, whopping red flag of a relic from the days of yore (aka the ‘90s and early aughts) but it’s one of the few items on this list that isn’t mutually exclusive to a smartphone or laptop. You can have both a Lisa Frank background and a very 2019 iPhone. Is there a Lisa Frank app? If not, there absolutely deserves to be. Her characters should have up and stolen Neopet’s market from them on day one. Neopets are cute but Lisa’s creations are cuter. The point is, scan Etsy for some sweet, sweet Lisa Frank treasures.
It’s so odd that an entire section in the school supplies aisle in most big box stores is for calculators and yet, being a calculator is one of those unsung qualities a smartphone just does. There’s never been a commercial for smartphones that brags about how it doubles as a calculator, and yet we expect it. And yet, most of us had to shell out a ton of money for a calculator in high school that could graph and do a bunch of other things. Presumably, who really ever tested their high school calculator to its limits? Anyway, cut out the smartphone but have one of these bad boys laying around for safety.
Speaking of barely mentioned essentials. Of course, an iPhone can be used as a flashlight. How weird is it in older movies when some character needs to go find a flashlight? It should already be in their pocket! The miracle of light is just something that gets sat on day in and day out! A smartphone’s flashlight may not be as strong as the beam from a legitimate flashlight, but that doesn’t stop most of us from forgetting to stock the home with one. We’ll make do! Or something! Well, for a family toning it down and going old school, this is definitely a worthy investment.
Oh boy, the days of abridging an event’s description to fit in that tiny box for a day on a calendar. Now it’s all calendar apps and including every detail about the event because the title still has characters left to be included. Throw in some emojis just because! Live decadently! But once upon a time, synchronizing a family’s schedule wasn’t so easy. It involved a communal Sharpie and an agreed upon theme. Something tasteful and innocuous, like waterfalls. A waterfall themed calendar could get a whole family through a year without too much conflict. And the N’Sync calendar? Oh boy, that was the private calendar, kept on a bedroom’s closet door.
Let’s group listening to music via disc with vinyl as far as home-bound methods of music enjoyment. Sure, a Walkman can be involved in a jog but that mostly sounds like a great way to get a huge bruise on your hip. Whether it’s a love for variety or just owning a vinyl player that happens to also play CDs and cassettes, these are unexpected technologies that can make a comeback. They’re filling the gap an iPhone or other smartphone leaves since it’s not like by cutting out technology you’re consenting to cut out music. That’s just ridiculous.
Who even owns one? Who even has cable anymore? And if you’re really that stubborn and still have answered yes to the previous questions: what about who has a landline anymore? Come on, you can’t be serious! Basically, almost everyone watches TV (if you want to call streaming platforms television) on their laptop. So investing in any kind of screen that can’t simultaneously surf the web while you half-listen to a show is a pretty big act. It’s bold and a little revolutionary to go out and buy a television set today.
A phone… that’s only a phone? I know, why even bother? The entire point of a phone is to be a camera and also text and also texting shouldn’t just be text but also mostly be tiny cartoons. So what’s the point of a brick used exclusively for calling people? Well, I guess the point is: necessity, in the rare case that a more elaborate smartphone just isn’t an option. It’s not a phone that can pay the bills or serve as matchmaker and radio, but it’s a pretty great accessory for parents who don’t want their attention taken away by the more hi-tech options.
There has to be somewhere to write down new friends contact information, no matter how Amish a family aspires to be. Cut out all the technology you want but you’ll probably eventually meet some new and interesting person, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Other people’s birthdays still exist and there has to be a way to remember them. And that’s where the Rolodex and the address book comes in. It doesn’t sync up with the cloud, which is a massive error and cause for more than enough anxiety to keep people from sleeping. But it’s still a very useful little item.
It’s a little bit odd how many services are emerging that offer to print out pictures from phones at incredibly low prices. Sure, there’s the value of a picture that can be held but doesn’t printing out all the pictures from your phone just feel like a shortcut to accumulating junk? It feels a bit like seeking out even more objects to pack when and if the family moves to a new home. Whatever, there’s a lot more to be said about a curated scrapbook. It might be full of items like tickets and wristbands (assuming those weren’t also digital) or straight-up photographs but a family scrapbook can truly be a treasure.
There’s a lot to be said for distracting a kid for hours on end with some nonsensical phone game that just squeals with sound effects and endless music. But there’s, even more, to be said for setting aside a night for a family to play board games and talk and have a great excuse to spend time together. It’s the same as having dinner together; just finding an excuse to spend time paying attention to one another. It sounds so simple and yet it’s huge. Anyway, that kind of quality time might require a few different belongings: one copy of Hungry, Hungry Hippos, one of a very elaborate board games no one quite understands.
Did you forget that this is yet another object iPhones have replaced? Them and laptops! Those itty bitty scraps of paper are an entire industry that supports whole factories and the people that work in them. And yet, so easily replaceable by an app that’s little more than annoying! The notes app on iPhones is pretty useful and handy for grocery lists or deep thoughts but the sticky note app on laptops is mostly a way to clutter up the home screen. It’s as annoying as actual physical sticky notes, except it can’t lose adhesiveness and fall into your breakfast!
Granted, there are more apps and websites and overall services that offer free or cheap personalized e-cards. Some even apply a formula to a person’s penmanship so that it’s easy to replicate and expand on for wedding thank-you cards. It’s easy to look down on that, but also those cards take so much time. On the other hand, that time spent is a very important and touching way to let someone know you appreciate them. For a giant event like a wedding, that may be a bit much. But if there’s less than a dozen notes to send out, why not? It goes from being a scrap of mail to a keepsake.
It can just be a postcard sent for no reason at all to a friend who lives in the same city as you or a soaring love letter. Everything becomes more memorable when it’s handwritten. Emails are filed away in gigantic hoards with heartfelt messages mixed up with Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons. Handwritten letters live in a drawer where only other special things live. It takes more time and your hand might cramp up after a short amount of time, but it’s worth it. And if it’s maybe not worth it to you, it will be to the person you’re sending it to.