My 15-year-old brother (who is 11 years younger than me) asked me what I did with my phone before texting the other day. Like, dead seriously asked me what in the world I did with a cell phone I couldn’t text people with.

My answer to his question was “talk to people.” This was eye opening because it was just 11 years ago that I was wondering what people did before cell phones, and the answer I received to that question was “talk to people.” HOW FASCINATING. It’s almost as if the definition of talking to people has changed.

And that’s because it has.

11 years ago, I was 15 and sneaking on my flip phone at sleep away camp to go on the AIM Express website because for some reason I, unlike most other children, had the internet on the phone and was already addicted. Because of this, I was always on my phone , whether I was calling a friend, playing a game that came with the phone, or communicating with the other Nextel users among my peers via “beep beep” AKA two-way radio. And if anyone thought I was bad then, now I cannot QUIT my iPhone. Every five seconds I am checking that thing. Going from my email, to the Facebook app, to the Twitter app, to the Instagram app, to my texts, to Timehop, to my website’s stats, and then back to my email. It’s sick and it’s an addiction.

But just imagine how bad that addiction is going to be for kids who think this is the norm? For the kids who know nothing except having a device in which you can do everything and anything on without having to communicate face-to-face or mouth-to-mouth with anyone?

I used to think it would be landline phones and VHS tapes that would be the retro part of my childhood. But it is going to be so much more than that. With the rate technology upgrades are moving at, smart phones are going to be considered retro in 10 years probably…

But before you think about how EFFED UP THAT IS, travel back in time to when things were simpler — you know, when you just had a cell phone that maybe had internet access via a web browser.

Here are 15 things we did differently before smartphones:

1. Printed out directions to destinations from Mapquest and followed said print out while driving. RIP Mapquest.


2. Upgraded to GPS’s for navigation instead of print outs from the interwebs. We actually carried around another device prior to having maps and directions (updated in real time with traffic and stuff) ON OUR CELL PHONES.


3. Carried around digital cameras to take pictures with. Because the camera on our non-smartphones were just not good enough. Even the Blackberry’s camera sucked and that was most definitely a smartphone. It just wasn’t smart enough. We also used to store our pictures on our computers instead of on our phones. I miss that. I also miss her:


4. Used CDs followed by MP3 players followed by iPods to store our music on. Now, people have music on their phones. Or, people have music streaming services on their phones because why download a small number of songs when you can stream them all? The 5,000 songs I had on my iPod in high school suddenly does not seem cool anymore (but it, like, totally was).


5. Checked our email on the computer, and only on the computer. So if you were out of the office, you were REALLY out of the office. You could actually use the excuse “I wasn’t at a computer” if you missed an email or something because the only way you could get said email was on the computer. Now you’re expected to be on your email literally all the time, even though your work place is most likely not paying for your shit-induced data plan (I see you, Verizon).


6. Went on to check Facebook instead of clicking on the Facebook app on our phones (or waiting for pop-up notifications). I’m not even sure if this one counts because youths today do not even use Facebook. I also still go on, but I also couldn’t get into the whole tablet thing. I like my laptop and I like my phone and I’m not sorry.


7. Posted pictures as is. Only a very select group of people re-touched their photos in Photoshop or MS Paint to make themselves look thinner and tanner. I actually am a culprit of darkening my photos in iPhoto after uploading my pics to my computer via USB cord to make myself look tan AF. But now, there’s a whole app that does that for you. Kids don’t even know what un-touched photos look like. It’s kind of sad, right?


8. Did the math in our heads or on paper to calculate the tip at restaurants. Unless someone had their TI-88 calculator with them, you had to solve that problem yourself.


9. Wrote notes to friends during class and shopping lists on paper. We couldn’t text people, or send them Snapchats — we had to send physical notes on real life paper. And we couldn’t put our shopping list in the “notes” section of our iPhones. Seriously, how was I even living before I could take notes on my phone? The question is real.


10. Go to the bank or an ATM to check the balance left in our accounts. Or maybe you just knew. For instance, sometimes I panic while next in line at the grocery store that there will not be enough money in my bank account to cover it, but then I check my balances with my trusty banking app and find out I do. How did I manage to shop anywhere before having an ATM on my phone? Makes no sense. To throw it back EVEN MORE, who remembers when you went through the bank drive thru with your parents and they transported their money requests in this futuristic tube? OoOoOoOoooo.

Teller returning receipt

11. Hailed cabs on the side of the road. There’s an app for that now? Have you heard of it? Remember my 15-year-old brother? Well, he lives in the suburbs and takes Uber to and from friends’ houses over the weekend. Imagine if we had Uber in high school? Things would have been a lottttttt different.

pick me, choose me, love me, or i'll just get an uber
“pick me, choose me, love me, or i’ll just get an uber”

12. Paid people back with cash. Now, you can pay people directly from your phone right away on Venmo. No more chasing people down (lol, jk). Now it’s just instant pay.


13. Made plans with friends via AIM and later Facebook events. Every Friday I would put up an away message that said “What’s up for tonight?” and people would answer. Because, yes, there was a time before mass texts.



14. Made eye contact with people while doing things such as eating dinner across from someone, commuting to work, or waiting at a coffee shop. Now, no one makes eye contact because our eyes are literally glued to our phones. We rely on our phones to meet other people and find love. No wonder no one meets IRL anymore.

This is what it looks like when no one is on their phones. Awkward.
This is what it looks like when no one is on their phones. Awkward.


15. Talked to people on the phone. Like, actually spoke to them. For hours. Our smartphones have now made us so busy because we are expected to be available for work and life 24 hours a day 7 days a week that we don’t have time to talk to people. We keep in touch in group texts and Snapchats, but let’s be real people — it just isn’t the same as talking on the phone, which I have grown to hate slash fear. Especially when I have to make appointments. Isn’t there an app for that yet?



Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still here! I'm the author of the humorous self-help book AVERAGE IS THE NEW AWESOME. I like pizza, French fries, barre, spin, more pizza, more French fries, and buying clothes. Follow me on twitter & Instagram at @samanthamatt1... and on this site's meme account on IG at @averagepeopleproblems. OKAY GREAT THANKS BYE.


  1. The GPS/mapquest is the best. I’ve had this issue recently myself, as have several people I know. When you lose your phone or it dies it’s, “I can’t leave my house, I’ll get lost.” Funny.


  2. Pingback: 15 Things We Did Differently Before Smartphones | Cesar Vela

  3. Pingback: Today in Technology October 1, 2015 | Tech

Write A Comment