Almost everyone lives most of their life online these days, and the younger you are, the more likely you are to spend with a screen from time to time.
With the internet being so central to life, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time…it just didn’t exist.
But as crazy as it sounds for a lot of young people these days, if you’re of a certain age, you remember those pre-internet days all too well – and probably with great fondness.
Reddit users reflect on teenage life before the internet.
On Reddit people have been digging into those halcyon analog days in a thread in the NoStupidQuestions subreddit in someone asked “Teenagers before the Internet” what they did in their free time.
The answers are a real trip down memory lane for many of us and a reminder that we all lived in a very different world.
Mixtapes… So many mixtapes…
By far, the most popular answers to the question of what teenagers did before the internet were about music, especially the careful construction of mixtapes.
Today, people put together a Spotify playlist like nothing happened, but doing that before the internet? Well, that was a *project* – especially if you were going to record songs for the radio, as several Redditors remembered doing.
As one said, “Waiting for the radio to play your favorite songs so you could record them took a long time.” And that of course came after the long process of “constantly calling the radio station, asking them to play” your favorite song, as another recounted.
Once you actually prepared to record the song, you faced a different problem: “hoping the DJ didn’t talk at the end.”
In fact, several Redditors had deep-seated memories of DJs doing just that – ruining their mixtape recordings with their jabber on the song. As one of them said:
“Nearly 30 years later, every time I hear Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’, I still expect a DJ to come in at the end with their horrible yodel, because that’s what happened. on the recording I ended up doing,” one user recalled.
When shopping centers were THE place to be.
Redditors reminisced about many activities they engaged in before the internet, and a visit to their local mall topped many people’s list.
These days, we tend to think of malls as sort of…well, gimmicky—places we only go to as a last resort when we can’t find what we want on Amazon or on any myriads of other online shopping platforms.
But for pre-internet kids, malls were the place to see and be seen. Tons of Redditors had fond memories of strolling through American malls, blowing their allowances on cookies at the food court.
One Redditor recalled that while they weren’t home talking on the phone “for hours,” they were “at the mall with friends,” hanging out in the arcade and movie theater that every mall had at the time.
When MTV was all that mattered.
Music videos are pretty much exclusively an internet thing now, with artists curating their own YouTube video playlists for fans. But once upon a time, before shows like “Catfish” and “Teen Mom” were even a gleam in anyone’s eye, when MTV was a channel that only aired music videos.
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Similar to the whole mixtape debacle, pre-internet kids spent hours in front of their TVs waiting for their favorite videos to play. As one Redditor recalled:
“I remember staying up until midnight watching the release of Eminem’s Encore on MTV. I think I was 9 or 10 or something and I got punished so hard for don’t go to bed. I think I also recorded a show or something my parents were watching lmao”
Ah yes, the fiery drama that would ensue when you accidentally recorded your mother’s “Murder She Wrote” episodes with the latest episode of MTV’s “Total Request Live”… Today’s kids will never understand !
John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.