Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Living Like It's 99: No Social Media, No Smartphone (alvarez.io)
94 points by betaman0 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 150 comments

I've always said we peaked at the technology level of the late 90s. We had everything we needed, and none of the BS; cell phones, e-mail, instant messaging, SMS, file sharing, blogs, forums, and broadband internet were all widespread at that point. Everything since has just been layers of monetized, corporate controlled, walled garden crap that has objectively ruined society and turned the techno-utopian dreams we had then into a dystopic Orwellian nightmare.

I wonder if a community will form around this philosophy, and we'll end up with a new kind of Amish. Like in the year 2200, there's a group of people called the Seinfeldians who refused to use any technology introduced after 1998

It’s pretty much guaranteed. Live long enough and you witness the cycle of one generation’s legacy become taken for granted by the next, followed by rejection and rediscovery by each subsequent.

The kinds of people who'd use SourceHut and Gemini [0] and run a lightweight desktop Linux distro?

RMS is famously unbending in his refusal to use non-Free software. There aren't many like him though.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemini_(protocol)

There are the various Tilde.club and similar servers, and SDF.

Arguably the "new kind of Amish" are... just the Amish; they've continued to adopt new technologies when they comport with their particular values. Other intensional communities may have different values.

Love "Seinfeldians" :)

I might be the outlier here: but I think we had everything we needed BEFORE cell phones and SMS (or more specifically before cell phones were common). Sure, it's nice in an emergency to have a phone anywhere you are, but in a society where you can be reached 24/7 there's a sense of urgency all the time. I struggle to even describe the difference because it's been so long since I've felt that sense of calm that comes with: hey guys, I'm going to X, I'll be back at dinner - and nobody expecting to hear from me until dinner.

I'm sure there are a privileged few that will say you just need to shut your phone off, but for most of us that's not an option. On a vacation? Sure. Outside of that, good luck.

I'm really curious what you mean by "privileged" for a person to be able to say "just shut your phone off".

I recently broke my phone and it took ~10 days to get a replacement. During this time, I had my wife text my family that I had no phone and wouldn't be responding to anything for a while. I felt no urgency, nobody got upset that they couldn't reach me, and thankfully there were no emergencies.

What level of privilege do you consider me having (or lack thereof that you apparently have) that doesn't let you do this? Genuine question btw, not trying to be facetious. I found the use of "privilege" here to be an interesting word choice and was hoping you could expand a bit.

My read is that it's specific to the case of being a programmer/sysadmin. Even if you're not on call, it's usually pretty unimaginable to be completely uncontactable if something breaks.

So privileged might literally mean "not having the most common job held by the people reading this."

I think that needs to be specified even further, because although this seems to surprise many people on this site, the vast majority of programming jobs do not require you to be "constantly contactable if something breaks". I have been a dev for almost 10 years now and never had a job that required anything to this level of "ability to be contacted", and neither have none of the people in my social circles. I genuinely feel bad for the people who end up stuck in jobs where this is the case, and in that way perhaps I would be more privileged than the GP

Every job I’ve had came with reachability expectations

Hopefully not 24/7/365. I think that's what OP was getting at. At the very least, weekend coverage should be passed around various co-workers.

It's a pretty big deal to ask somebody to shut off what might be their only form of social connection. It sounds like you have the privilege (not pejorative) of having a decent social network irl if you have a wife and family, as do I now that I'm later in life, but I can remember being an only-child teenager in the middle of nowhere with no social outlet other than online.

I know you're not the OP, but this is a very fair point. I would imagine though that if you're in such a situation you don't see your online time or phone as much of a detriment; You would see it as a lifeline and most likely be quite happy to have it. The GP does not seem happy with the idea of phones in this case.

>you just need to shut your phone off

These arguments are frustrating to me, they are completely missing the point. It's a misunderstanding of the difference between incentives and choices. When someone says "I have to be online all the time," they are not saying "I have no free-will and am being legally and/or physically compelled to stay online." They are saying "If I don't want to make substantial changes to my lifestyle and drastically reduce my career opportunities, not to mention possibly get fired from my job and/or lose personal relationships, I have to stay online all the time."

The challenge now with ditching the cell phone is that, in light of so many people having cell phones, the once-ubiquitous pay phones are mostly gone. Instead of carrying a cell phone, I once carried a few quarters.

Remember pagers? Even before cell phones, my dad (a physician) was reachable 24/7.

It’s an option for everyone unless you’re being paid to be on call.

Yes, I always thought this as well, but was not sure if it was influenced by me feeling nostalgic for the 90's...

I was not around enough in the 90's to have nostalgia, but looking back at history I have to agree.

Video calls? Skype initial release was in 2003. Consumer OS with server-grade kernel? Windows XP first release was in 2008. USB thumb drives? Windows 98 didn't have drivers for them, so they came bundles with CD with drivers? Web browsers? Firefox initial release was in 2002, much hated IE6 - in 2001. In 90s you had IE5 - I doubt it was much better than IE6.

Skype's big innovation was its ability to work in NAT-to-NAT situations, not anything to do with its actual calling functionality. People were video chatting even way back in the mid '90s: https://www.sattlers.org/mickey/CU-SeeMe/internetTVwithCUSee...

>>Video calls? Skype initial release was in 2003.

The first commercial software application for point-to-point video calls is CUSeeme and it was released in 1992.

The first concert to be live-streamed over the Internet was in 1993. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mbone

The web made for IE5/Netscape 4 was much better than the current mess we have now. Websites were designed for the people reading them, rather than for analytics.

> Windows XP first release was in 2008

Not the 90s, but XP was released in 2001.

Thanks! I looked at a wrong release date on wiki ("Final release", which is actually Service Pack 3)

> Video calls?

Microsoft NetMeeting[0] was released in 1996 and actually included with Windows 95 through Vista

> USB thumb drives? Windows 98 didn't have drivers for them, so they came bundles with CD with drivers?

Zip drives and/or CD-RW were pretty widespread by then, filling a similar role

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_NetMeeting

Trivia: AT&T consumer Picturephone service launched in 1970. https://ethw.org/Picturephone

Pffft! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videotelephony#/media/File:Bil...

1997, under 1000,- Deutsche Mark. A pair for 1798,- DM Oh, and ISDN of course ;-)

There was Windows NT 4 which was awesome, released in 1996, and Windows 2000, released in 1999.

As a kid I used both of those. NT 4 was a bit hard to use since most programs (read games) were written for DOS or win95/98.

But Windows 2000 was awesome. It was like having winXp a couple years early

Yes, I deliberately tried to exclude the NT family by mentioning "consumer OS" :) BTW, how was Windows 2000 in terms of software (read games) compatibility?

“ to exclude the NT family by mentioning "consumer OS" ”

Sorry missed that.

Games: I wasn’t much of a gamer by then. But Age of empires worked well :D

IE6 was a great browser when released, the problem was that IE7 wasn’t released for another 5 years, a lifetime in those days.

In the movie The Matrix, Agent Smith explains that the Matrix is designed after the peak of human civilization, which just so happens to be the late 90s.

I'd argue that cellphones, e-mail, instant messaging, and SMS were already developments detrimental to the well-being of the average Joe.

I definitely don't need 24/7 access to news and social media, but I still really appreciate the ability to access the internet "on the go." If my destination changes, I can look up new directions. If my friend and I are making plans to meet up again later, I can check an up-to-date weather forecast.

This is an ability I actively longed for as a child growing up in the 2000s (I'm 26 for perspective). I bought that special web browser for my Nintendo DS, but it was useless away from a wifi hotspot. (And it was slow as heck.)

>> I've always said we peaked at the technology level of the late 90s.

I like having Wi-fi and Bluetooth and these didn't become popular until sometime around 2004. In 99, most people would still use ethernet cables and floppy disks.

And corporate controlled, walled gardens have existed even before the commercial net. Online service providers (like Compuserve and AOL) were a huge market until the Dotcom bust.

>I've always said we peaked at the technology level of the late 90s.

The 1890s was a good time! Surprised an Amish posted on HN.

Unfortunately, couldn't agree more. We need more cancel culture in tech.

I tend to disagree: spending the last 4 months in lockdown would have been really hard for me, but playing Table Tennis in VR with my home 3D printed paddle made things so much better.

So how do we get it back?

Give everyone you want to talk to your phone number, then delete all of your social media accounts, for a start.

Nothing better than waiting two days for a video file to download.

Blogging wasn’t really widespread until ~2001-2002

Here's a story: I use a Blackberry 10 device, have for the past 6 years. So I'm half in/half out of smartphone ownership. I can browse websites in the browser (the web's made this much harder to do of recent) but apps are out of the question.

I was extolling the virtues of my ways to a friend on a business trip to Denver. I have everything I need, nothing I don't. I can call, text, browse some sites. I have balance, I have minimalism, I have peace.

Then we decided to take a bus trip to Boulder. When we arrived at the station, there was no teller, and you had to install an app to buy a ticket. I sheepishly asked him to buy my ticket, and I paid him back in cash (no Venmo for BB10), and felt like a thorough and proper asshole.

I still have my BB10 phone.

> When we arrived at the station, there was no teller, and you had to install an app to buy a ticket. I sheepishly asked him to buy my ticket, and I paid him back in cash (no Venmo for BB10), and felt like a thorough and proper asshole.

That sounds like incredibly poor design, exclusionary against people without smartphones. Why wouldn't they implement a Web interface for the ticket vending system?

Even if they did, it would likely be some bloated Javascript laden app that my phone couldn't load properly.

And it isn't like the BB10 Browser was bad tech, when it came out I believe it was a more standards compliant browser than its counterparts on IOS or Android.

It's just old. Apparently old is bad.

Leave JavaScript out of it! I love you JS <3

Thank you. It's refreshing to see someone embrace humility. Good, sincere story.

I know there are things like this, but I don't think they should be allowed. Not everyone has a smartphone. Many elderly people don't. Many poor people don't. Many disabled people don't. Yes, having the option to bypass human interaction using a phone should be allowed, but to make travel dependent on having a smartphone is insane. It's like those websites for signing up for the Covid vaccine ignoring that a lot of elderly people have no idea what that even means.

I rented a U-Haul recently to pick up furniture. I reserved a 1/2 truck online. Upon arriving I entered the office and said I had a reservation. He then asked me to fill out a form on my phone. Then when I returned the vehicle I went in to drop off the keys. I had to take photos and fill out a form, again on a phone.

The whole system was geared for 'easy' 'seamless' pickup, but it was much more difficult then renting a car a decade ago. They eliminated a cost of having more than one useless employee by making the customer do all the work. Totally infuriating and a horrible experience.

I agree, it shouldn't be like this. Unfortunately the reality is, if you decide to stick to the way things should be instead of how they are, you either 1) pay a heavy social tax of explaining to your friends/family/coworkers/strangers that no, you can't just install the app or 2) rely on other people to help you, forcing them into the situation you avoid.

I do both of these regularly, sadly.

gsub/smartphone/car and you can see where society is headed. A lot of the world is going to just assume smartphones are mandatory and not give a bleep if you don't have one.

Try walking around 90% of the US.

I agree with you, by the way, that neither the status quo of car-dependency nor the inevitable smartphone dependency should be allowed... but here we are.

That sucks man. I'd actually love for this thread to document different situations where a smartphone was basically a necessity.

I ditched all my social media after being a lifelong user.

The biggest noticeable change for me is I suddenly forgot most of these random 'online' friends and don't think about them at all anymore! If I'm not willing to pick up the phone or text somebody, I don't interact with them - that's it.

I find I have more boredom, which is a good thing. I was quite bored as a kid and had to make do with my own devices. So I've been reading more, I even picked up some hobby programming outside of my job which I haven't done in years!

The only place I still comment is actually hacker news!

When I was younger I tried every new internet service I could get ahold of. I however now do not add in new services unless they have been around a bit. They also must have some actual tangible benefit to my life. I have also removed a lot of the 'popup' services. These are the ones that like to notify you every 3 seconds about something. They beg for attention like a broken Tamagotchi.

In my mid 30s I realized my monetary problems are fairly 'steady state' and not a big headache anymore. But what I do lack is time. Smartphones have an issue as most of the models of revenue for them are internet 'freemium'/'advert supported'. What I realized is that stuff had started to take up a significant amount of my time. Time I needed for other things. If you let these things in you will find yourself consumed by them. Every last one looking for engagement. I cut out all major news sources for the same reasons. They were attention machines that did not a thing to really improve my life.

So given those conditions. My smart phone is ancient by tech standards. Has a very small handful of applications. My laptop desktop is setup with whatever the designer thought was a decent idea for the version of the OS I am using. Things I stay away from are social media, fermium games, or news. All three of those are little more than disguised skinner boxes. That try to make me feel good about myself but do not actually do that.

Another annoying thing is no one really seems to want to sell you things anymore. They want to sell you a service. Then one day 'poof' that service is gone. I no longer have the cool utility anymore, and many times a pile of expensive paper weights. So I avoid any service where their pitch is 'it costs less than a cup of coffee per month'. If I have gone through the trouble to make your thing part of my life I do not want it suddenly 'going away' either by upgrade or bankruptcy. So I try to find better alternatives that will stick around.

I keep saying and believe that boredom and procrastination are the best ways to success. You can't get a good idea or create something awesome while you're busy with something else.

unfortunately HN, reddit, etc fill those pleasure centers of the brain that also are rewarded by doing work. Or as my grandmother reflected on her first husband, who she divorced upon realizing he was a schlub:

> We moved to Connecticut, out of Manhattan where he was going to work on the next "Great American Novel", instead he spent the entire time reading the New York Times.

Same. HN is the best but even this was something I found from a random face to face in a hotel lobby. I have gotten most of my friends off of the social media feeds. All of them have seen benefits and a couple have seen such a drastic change that they equate it to taking an antidepressant.

The benefit of the internet is that for niche subjects you can always find friends. The stupid part of social media is that many of those niche groups ended up using facebook/twitter/etc as a SSO/single place to discuss those things. But you don't need to - that niche can still exist.

I use forums, email and IRC for those ends, so the internet still remains useful for me, for now.

Hey Millenials, or Gen-Z'ers:

A world existed before you came around.

  1986-1992: BBS's, newsgroups
  1992-today: IRC, NNTP, and IM clients
There existed ways to be social long before FaceBook/IG/Reddit/et al. were around. And if you squint you can even see the skeleton of those other platforms in the things you use today.

If I were to live today like I did in 1999: My (online) social groups were a close knit family of people that shared similar interests. Half of whom lived on the other side of the planet. I typed with them daily, and had close relationships.

Everything I see on Facebook/IG is vapid, and meaningless. Nothing but fakeness and trying to impress strangers.

FFS 1999 is post 'Eternal September'. Had the article been dated 1979 I might have tolerance for this intentional ignorance.

As a millennial (25), I disagree with the notion that all of Facebook and Instagram are vapid and meaningless. To me, that just shows that you're not curating your feeds in a manner that highlights what good remains on the platforms.

The problem to me is not that people are less willing to participate, but that the platforms have consumed all meaningful discussion. I'm a part of some fantastic niche groups on Facebook, follow insightful people on Twitter, and read many fantastic subreddits. I've led book clubs, played board games, and developed deep, meaningful relationships via these platforms. They problem is they have been consumed in the monolith of likes and cat pictures, and pulling the value out is growing more difficult. It's a matter of continually chopping back the vines (cutting /r/funny and /r/worldnews out of reddit, deleting friends you don't care about and unliking fan pages on Facebook).

My internet social groups are still the same as yours are. We just have different mediums through which we communicate.

From the perspective of a millennial from the other end of the generation (39), it looks like you two are talking past each other.

To your point: the way you're using Facebook/Insta is effectively the same pattern people used BBSs and Usenet back in the day, just adapted to modern devices, UIs, etc.

To OP's point: it's truly impossible to describe how much less bullshit was on the internet back in the day to someone who wasn't around to experience it for themselves. You had the same ability to be social on a BBS, but it was 100% opt-in engagement, your online presence there was scoped to that BBS alone, and use of real names was taboo.

> As a millennial (25), I disagree with the notion that all of Facebook and Instagram are vapid and meaningless. To me, that just shows that you're not curating your feeds in a manner that highlights what good remains on the platforms.

I don't know about Instagram, but Facebook will put vapid garbage into your feed if you've curated it down enough. 'You might be interested in ...' because they don't want to have a stale feed when your friends aren't doing anything.

Disclosure: I worked at Facebook, as part of an aquisition; however, I never worked on or with the feed team.

So I like twitter, and I get a handful of tweets per day - no more, no less. But I just can't resist trying to get more of my "tweets" into my phone, whether my friends want to share, or just 'liked" or commented or likes the comment I just wrote in twitter. (It's okay, it'll probably get deleted, sorry. I just love Twitter.) I also like getting 'likes' off of 'twitter', but mostly because my friends and co-workers can see those, and feel 'liked' too. Like I said, I'm a user of twitter for a few reasons and a very important reason - to engage more with people online - whether social media wants me to, or isn't too keen to allow me.

I still can't find the settings on Twitter (web) to get a plain normal feed. I still get them pushing "topics" and my friend's liked content in my feed.

I think the challenge is encroachment. As the tech companies need to squeeze more revenue to continue growth they'll try to monetize increasingly hard.

What does that lead to? Banning 2000 "altright" subreddits, even heavily moderated ones like /r/the_donald (now patriots.win). Facebook adding advertisements to messenger. Twitter letting half their users (i.e. bots) to continue to use the platform; while banning alternative opinions.

The reality is they want cash, anything with that motive is going to guide conversations.

I think you’re right about social media having consumed all of the content but the curation you mention used to be there before and was perhaps less of a losing battle. Now instead of just maintaining a list or fed of interesting groups, pages and people you also have to fight algorithms deployed by these closed platforms to monetize your attention. That and the constant flood of obnoxious people that you need to block our filter out.

It doesn’t have to be this way, we just need to break up these overgrown giants.

don't listen to what we're being told all the time, we just know what the current social media will allow for. And I think we do the Internet for the wrong reasons. I think we should treat social media as a technology-based network; and just be more aware of its current purpose, not as a way to 'like' people or to be "trendy".

You're doing it all wrong. What I also don't like is the lack of sharing. When I see people taking photos of me with a selfie, I always say "I'm on your side". But when I take an Instagram photo, everyone who saw the photo sees "this poor guy". I don't give a fuck about it. I just want to share my awesome adventures together with people I love. The whole point of the Instagram was just that it is easier. We can see each other and share our experience!

I've been saying this for 30 years, and it's been proved that I'm the outlier, but think collecting pictures of one's self, especially standing in front of things, is weird. I theoretically understand sending pictures of yourself in exotic places or having fun with friends as proof that you go to places and have friends, but my actual friends just believe me when I tell them that I went somewhere and I know people.

Hey boomer, or whatever generation you wish you were born into:

>Everything I see on Facebook/IG is vapid, and meaningless.

Maybe you should stop following vapid and meaningless people then? When I do go on instagram I see custom made guitars, people playing cool guitar riffs, drum stuff, and so on. Facebook is used for local neighborhood news and motorcycle groups.

Its as if.... you control what you see!

I think it’s time to start targeting the younger generations with these sorts of comments.

The oldest millennials are in their 40s now. Gen X’ers are all gray haired and half are retired. Most boomers are dead.

Edit: wrong letter.

I think you might be mistaken about the time-frames of the different labels/generations.


The oldest GenZ'er would be ~24 years old.

I am a GenX'er and looking at the butt-crack of 50 (yes I have grey hair).

Most Boomers that I know are retired, but not dead yet. (74-57 years of age)

Oops I did get my letters mixed up. How embarrassing. Looks like my age is showing- I'm on the cusp of two, aka "Gen Xillennnial"

The "When phones had wires, humans were free" idea ignores that back in the day when the phone rang, you'd stop whatever you were doing and answer it. There was no Caller ID, no voice mail. You picked up the phone not knowing if this was an important work call, a social call from a friend or relative, or somebody trying to sell you something. Yes, a mobile phone means you can be contacted anywhere, but on the flip side you are free to ignore it, safe in knowing that you'll miss nothing of importance. People will leave a message, or at least you can see who called.

That reminded me of an interview [1] with Matt Weiner, the creator of Mad Men:

> "A lot of the most important things in my life have happened to me over the phone," he said, remember that before texting and voicemails, "It's a dramatic situation almost every time when you answer the phone ­— if you answer the phone."

[1] https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/mad-men-series-finale... (spoiler alert: interview is about the series finale)

I remember a one-man-show of 1998 where the comic pretends he “succeeded to start cigarette” and how stylish he became. In the middle of the scene he says: “Before starting? I used to go to dates, and when the person was late, I was waiting like this, on the street, arms pending, didn’t know what to do with my hands. NOW I SMOKE!”

Joke aside, it highlights that people used to wait a lot. “Meet me at 6 at the library” meant that you might be on the wrong side of the library, you’ll try the other entrance and the person does the opposite, using another path, so you don’t meet, and you don’t know whether they had to cancel. We did far fewer things because anything took a lot of time.

Movies were much slower too. Watch Gremlins again, an action movie: It’s so slow! (Counter example: Die Hard is correctly fast-paced for an action movie). To summarize, qualities you’d require would be reliability in appointments and being able to wait a lot without getting bored.

We could even make the case that it is now possible to fill loneliness with a mobile phone, whereas it drove more than one into dementia pre-iPhone.

Mobile phones didn't invent caller ID and answering machines...

I don’t recall caller ID being ubiquitous in 99. Answering machines had good penetration though.

I was 12 in 99, so my memory isn't great on this, but I remember having it around then. It could have been a few years later, though. I seem to recall that you had to pay extra for it, so most people didn't bother.

Caller ID was first trialed in the consumer market in 1984. Hell, the first patent was filed for it in 1969. The international standard was defined in 1993. It's been around longer than people remember.

Plus, we had *69 in the 90s.

Perhaps my family was poorer than average at that point. I saw others on HN saying cell phones were getting ubiquitous in 99 too. I only recall one or two adults around me having a cell during that time.

Raises some interesting points, then replaces the smart phone with more devices.

Sure, solved the privacy issue by essentially cutting the network cord. But needing a special watch+GPS to navigate?

I was hoping he was all in and would revert to paper maps.

I remember, being new in town, plotting my destination on a paper map before setting out — but recording the instructions ("Turn left on El Camino..." into one of those small digital recorders (think 1995) so I could drive without having to consult the map.

That's about the level of tech I was expecting.

Myself, I would prefer to live like it's "79. The CB radio was sort of peak technology as far as I'm concerned.

10-4, Rubber Duck.

> A trick I’ve developed, when giving my contact info to new people, is to enter my phone number on their smartphone myself, and install Signal for them.

don't... do that. don't install stuff on anyone's phone unless they've told you to.

Yeah, this will immediately stop me from wanting to further engage with you if you do this.

It's kind of ironic how little respect for someone else's privacy this behavior exhibits, considering the intent.

That's the height of obnoxious. I can't really imagine the level of self-centeredness required to think that's okay.

Who the heck would even hand over their phone to someone just to get a phone number?

It's a common thing. Perhaps not where you are.

In a noisy place? Hand your phone to someone attractive and they call/text themselves, then you and they have eachother's numbers.

Completely agree. And doesn’t installing apps require the owner’s face id or password?

Even on ios it's technically not required. You only need touchid/faceid/password to add the app to your account. Afterwards you can freely install without additional authentication.

I suppose, but you'd need to have downloaded Signal previously.

Depends how you have it configured on android at least, if the phone is unlocked already you can install from the play store w/o additional permissions unless it is a paid app

Social media used to be fun 10 years ago. Twitter was a fun place with fun people when I started using it in 2009. Now social media has turned into a platform for misinformation, contrarians, and ‘gotcha’ folks.

Maybe it has more to do with you getting older than the platform changing

It's probably due to more adoption by the masses has dramatically altered the tribalism, sense of community and significantly changed the content & usage.

It is definitely elitist, but I miss an internet that required some effort if you wished to participate. It has been a net gain for the world, but probably a loss for most of the people here.

I can't speak for the GP, but Facebook became much less fun about a year ago when anti-mask disinformation started flooding in and I realized it was going to kill a lot of people. I haven't been on FB since then.

Even though he's just advertising a newsletter. He's right. Make friends in real life, meet partners via your social life. Don't waste time hopping on Facebook to envy people you don't even know.

A big part of my maturing was to stop comparing myself. Everyone starts at a different place, and everyone is at a different place. Someone who say dealt with homelessness as a teenager can be happy to rent half a room at 22. he or she doesn't have to compare themselves to a Facebook new grad with a 200k TC offer.

> Make friends in real life, meet partners via your social life

What social life do you have during a global pandemic? Where I'm located everything is shut down since December and won't reopen before some still-not-determined date next month. I'm glad I was already in a stable relationship covid, otherwise I wouldn't know how to have contacts with people in real life in the current situation.

One of my neighbors just introduced me to low level arduno programing. Hoping to work on more projects with him in the future.

Reached out to a girl I meet while traveling in Europe a few years back , she responded so we'll see what happens.

2019 was absurdly good for me. Had a few amazing partners , but this only happened because I deleted my social media. I'm fine with taking a year or two off.

I agree with no Social Media, but not having a Smartphone seems really too much.

My cell phone allows me to instantly communicate with my family members, know their exact whereabouts, monitor my home security and energy usage etc. Using it for super helpful driving directions (Waze or gmaps) and decidedly 21st century technologies like Instacart have been game changers. When I'm dropped (pre-covid) into another country, my service (tmobile) just "works" and often times my phone is preconfigured for the local transit system app (or just "works", due to NFC e.g. Suica in JP or Oystercard in London). Not to mention all the online and offline media (Netflix etc) that is almost endless these days.

I would never go back to the bad old days of T9 Nokias by comparison.

I'm not a fan of social media, annoying notifications or interruptions and have them mostly turned off. If someone 'really' wants to interrupt, they can call. That's fine.

I don't have any Social Media apps installed on my phone. I access them only from a browser running on my laptop. Not having the apps always with me everywhere I go has improved my privacy and prevents mindless engagement. This has been working very well for me.

A lot of the things he figured change doesn't seemed to be an effect of social media, rather the social groups he belonged to.

I'm not on most of the platform he described, and are barely reachable on the ones that are, have almost no friend group that chats constantly. I still happily use a smartphone for a lot of things, no 'hey if you want to communicate to me you'll have to install this new app'. Sounds like exporting the problem to someone else whereas one can just wean off the addictive part of those apps without actually deleting them.

The problem with opting out of these things is just how much our modern society relies on them, in very practical ways.

There's a local business (great croissants) that closes on random days (the owner is French) and the only place they publish that information is Instagram. You walk to the store and there's no note, nothing on their website, no-one answering the phone, but on Instagram they've been warning their customers for days.

I just got a haircut and after the cut was done he told me their credit card processor was down so I had to pay via venmo or whatever. I could have paid in cash I suppose, but I didn't have cash or a cheque. I assumed that he could take a credit card and he assumed I could pay via Venmo.

The old world was not built on the same assumptions. 7-11 clerks had maps and phone books to lend because people got lost. I had a 'tab' at the local video-rental store! Newspapers published movie times and TV schedules. You had scheduled recurring meet-ups with friends and met new people at cafes. You actually talked to strangers. Those things, the societal support infrastructure needed to live a life without a smart phone, are slowly disappearing. We are building a society based on the assumption that EVERYONE has a smartphone. And to some extent these online services.

I suspect that this is what people object to -- not having a choice. I get it, but the world waits for no one.

But the great thing is that each of us gets to decide. Netflix still has a DVD service! Vinyl record sales are up! Print newspapers and magazines are still a thing! There are still libraries! You can still get landline phones! You can have a smartphone that you leave off unless you want to make a call! Not all of the old world is gone yet, you can integrate the old world with the new.

Your example has nothing to do with fast-changing times and has everything to do with tech companies monopolizing social media with zero regulation.

The problem isn't that you need a smartphone now. The problem is that access to local businesses is now locked behind proprietary walled gardens.

I disagree. It is the business owners who are requiring their customers to use social media, not the social media companies. That same business would just as easily only accept cash and not have any website or social media at all.

Yea, that croissant place, I would just stop going there if they required you to use Instagram in order to know their hours. Like, what does Instagram have to do with pastries?

And for the haircut place: If their credit card processor goes down, they should tell you before providing service that they are cash-only, or just take an imprint of the credit card to charge later, like we did back a few decades ago. That still works.

Almost every question about how the world could work without social media and apps can be answered with: "Well, how did it work before social media and apps?"

True. The world worked without all this for a very long time.

>We’ve reached a dangerous level in society where people are afraid of human interaction, refusing a phone call because it makes them interact more humanly and with less control.

>Texting gives you more reflection on what you’re gonna say than a real and instant conversation

That's..not the conclusion I would have pulled from that. Seems far more likely people prefer to text over call because texting allows them to continue on with their day while calling requires them to give up a certain amount of time and interrupts what they're currently doing.

Millennials are supposedly very phone-shy (something I can anecdotally confirm) yet I've never seen anyone barring the pandemic I don't think they're any less likely to engage in in-person human interaction, which doesn't fit this conclusion about phones. Long phone calls, especially over cell phones due to comfort and latency issues, are uncomfortable.

I deleted my Facebook a decade ago and just recently got a message on LinkedIn from an old friend from high school. I guess he still runs into my mom sometimes but he was always afraid to ask her about me because he thought I might, "be in jail or something". Wow dude hopefully you don't always go 0-100 like that. Nah, I have a beautiful wife, 3 kids, and a fulfilling career building software. I don't need to stroke my ego any more than I already do. Nobody does. We had a meaningful exchange of emails and that was the end of it. To be honest I'd ditch the smart phone too if it wasn't for how useful google photos is, not to mention maps when you're on vacation. Frankly I miss i9. Writing text messages without looking at the phone. Imagine how great it would be these days with the guessing algorithms.

I've never had a facebook account and sometimes I wonder what people think. Most of my friends just take it as me being [imitates Kramer] out there. But I suppose it is possible that there are people from my past that might think I'm dead or something.

You could self-host a web page that has enough keywords that people from various phases of your life could find you if they googled, and then a contact form or whatever.

Wrote as a blog article and put on a Reddit-like site.

A personal blog is not social media and HN arguably is not social media either, as it doesn't even have basic social networking functionality like private messages.

I use my phone for phone calls and banking apps - if necessary. For work is email, slack and Kanboard on my own Linode instance. There is nothing I miss about social networks. Nothing. Less distractions. Less emotional impact from the network. Last year deleted my Linkedin profile. Replaced Google with Duck and Bing. Gmail is only for junk. Avoiding Amazon where is possible. Don't plan to buy new shit from Apple either. After my current computer dies I am moving to Linux/KDE and plan to never look back. Never felt so calm and clear-minded. Highly recommend the FAANG detox.

Masterclass in irony: complain about a lack of privacy and then require an email address to read the full article

No it doesn't. I just clicked free download and it worked.

> They all had my phone number, email address and other ways of contacting me. However, none of them did. It was like I had exited the matrix, and was living in another reality.

Definitely experienced this. People didn't think I was dead, but they had this weird mental block where, at least at first, they couldn't think of how to contact me except on social media. They did eventually figure it out.

Something I'd really like to try, should the right product ever come along, is going smartwatch-only. No smartphone.

Most of the things that I really need a phone for, I should be able to do from a watch. Making calls and listening to music shouldn't be a problem, and voice dictation is sufficient for short messages. Anything longer and more in-depth can and should wait until I'm at a computer.

"Download" an article about technological freedom? In a non-free format (PDF) via a third-party provider (Gumroad)?

Uh... absolutely not.

I use the word 'acquaintance' a lot more to label people I have a passing relationship online, and not 'friend'. I have four or five real friends; the rest are acquaintances. Growing up without a TV or phone until I was 13, and then getting a Commodore PET in 1977/78 was a jump. Then GEnie online BBS in the late 80s, and ECHO (East Coast Hang Out) in the early to late nineties were my golden years. I quit FB over 5 years ago, and deleted my LinkedIn account. I still have too many distractions from emails and texts outside of my friends and family. I miss the days of going home on a Friday from work, and not having a beep, vibrate, or flash of an LED interrupting my weekend.

Was anyone else reminded of "Tonight we're gonna party, like it's 1999"? Anyway all of e. g. Usenet, mailing lists, and BBSes had their fair share of noise and toxicity.

The one device I would like would be an e-paper Signal and Matrix messenger with a physical keyboard and without a camera, a form factor not unlike early blackberry devices.

> nor do I miss its endless group talks without anything useful

Much of human communication is useless (on the surface).

> A trick I’ve developed, when giving my contact info to new people, is to enter my phone number on their smartphone myself, and install Signal for them

Pretty invasive. Also where I started thinking maybe the author just preferred for everyone to be on their medium of choice (rather than they be on somebody else's medium of choice).

> Much of human communication is useless (on the surface).

Yep. It's called phatic expression (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phatic_expression). No information content but sends important social signals.

You can live without social media while still having a smartphone... its called discipline. Just don't use it, its that simple.

I don't have facebook, insta, etc on my phone. I use my phone for learning, studying, conversations, videos, and things like GPS.

Its just silly to give up a smartphone because you can't control yourself.

Have never owned a smartphone, did have a Facebook account for a week before deleting it.

I’ve thought about it. It would be kinda cool to be able to give up the distractions and just switch to a feature phone. Unfortunately I have some unusual circumstances that make me dependent on them for general day to day activities.

what's this '99 thing about tho: in 1999 there was a degree of social media as in forums, ICQ, AIM, geocities, angelfire sites, usenet and mailing lists. It wasn't that disconnected as maybe 3-4 years earlier.

Like most technology I think the key is to interact with smartphones and social media on your terms as much as possible. I'm not willing to totally ditch social media because it is the only way I communicate with some people who I still want to communicate with. The compromise I've come up with is I installed facebook messenger lite on my smartphone, but I won't install the full facebook app. This lets people contact me but lets me choose when I interact with the news feed, I find their mobile browser version works just fine to include my occasional post or upload.

In general I find using the smartphone as a works anywhere web browser to be the tradeoff that is best for me, I try to avoid installing apps as much a possible for privacy and annoyance reasons. I also run as much privacy software as possible and only use a phone brand that allows a road warrior VPN setup so I can route my traffic through a network that has additional privacy protections. This does take effort but so does anything else that gives you any degree of privacy from surveillance capitalism.

I wonder if social media would be more bearable without the invention/normalization of smartphones (iPhone style phones). Or vice-versa. It's the combination of the two I find most annoying about modern life.

I have been doing the same and it's been great. While I have a smartphone, I don't have a data plan and don't carry it with me when I'm out. I only use it for 2fa.


> A trick I’ve developed, when giving my contact info to new people, is to enter my phone number on their smartphone myself, and install Signal for them.

Glad to know.

Edit: I meant - who allow this?

Whatever your opinions on Signal, I'd be a little miffed if someone installed an app on my phone without my permission.

(Although, I'm also pretty sure iOS won't even let you do that without my fingerprint...)

Early 2020 I installed grapheneos on my phone. It had the awesome side effect of not allowing me to install social media apps. I mean, you really can if you want to, but why would you?

I explained to my Facebook friends that I was leaving and why, and that they can get in touch via sms, email, or signal. I had left Facebook before in the early 2010s for a few years, but had been back for a few years.

I found most people did not want to interact outside Facebook messenger. It has been really hard to get people to migrate over to signal. Even my family chat is no longer used on signal, even though they all have signal and I created the group, they prefer Facebook.

Businesses and even government use Facebook day to day for services and information. It really annoys me because it excludes us people not on that service. It is so presumptuous to assume that everyone is on Facebook. And its really dangerous to think that it should be a prerequisite for participating in the real world.

I really enjoy not participating in the "fake life" rat race. Some people may not report this phenomenon in their feeds, but as a guy in early 30s, its a common thread. Even if people don't consciously do it, it seems that is the accepted way to interact and post about life events. The reflex of taking a photo firstly to share with others online, to change how they perceive you. I did not enjoy all the aspects of how social media was influencing how we interact with our peers, so I quit.

I would love a secure decentralised social media option. Where I can post and others can subscribe, not matter their client or service. I wish that businesses and governments can do the same, and I don't have to be on Facebook to receive information about Covid vaccine rollout.

Just a beeper and driving to the nearest pay phone to call the person who beeped you (circa '94 to '99).

To the nearest what?

yes ... prior to the early 2000s there use to be a thing called a pay phone.. in the 90s as teen you surely didnt have your own cellphone. You had a beeper possibly or after 18 to 20 you or your friends.. definitely someone had a beeper that you use to beep someone to give them a call. If you were out and about you drove to the nearest pay phone (.25 per call).

The joke was that they barely exist any more. Maybe at some bigger train stations.

Both of those things still exist lol

IIRC most people had cells by 1999, just not smartphones. One used their phone to call people. Certainly that was the case by 2003 but I think that was also true of 1999.

Had to look this up because I was curious. This site quotes from the World Almanac, which states 32% of the US had a cell phone in 1999.


From my personal anecdotal experience, that would be correct. I had a cell phone, but had gotten my first in 1998. All of my friends who were professionals did too. My friends who were artists, or more marginal economically, did not. Cell phones were a common sight, but it was also clear that many didn't have them. I remember feeling slightly special when I could pull mine out in 1999. Even Seinfeld had jokes about cell phone etiquette. Which was a clear sign they didn't expect their audience to be entirely comfortable with them.

A breakdown by city would be interesting. Wouldn't be surprised if usage was 50%+ in larger cities.

In 1999 if you were a teen you most likely did not have a cellphone..18 to 24 you might have had a cellphone.

Email (hotmail) and AIM (AOL Messenger) was used extensively.

I didn't buy my first mobile phone until 2007, but I was definitely a hold out and the last person I knew to finally give in, effectively because it was required for continued employment.

It was around 50% in 1999

reminds me of JPod (and jPod)

Blogging like it's 2006

Applications are open for YC Summer 2021

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact