15 Things Every '90s Kid Understands

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Cell phones have the power to connect the world and make nearly all of humanity’s knowledge ever accessible. They are both a blessing and a — yep, we’ll say it — a curse. In our quest to keep in touch with family, friends, and even use the power of mobile Wi-Fi to meet new friends, we’re now burdened with the need to be connected at all times. At a concert. At a movie. Can we even get peace on the toilet?

Don’t get us wrong, the ubiquity of internet-enabled phones has helped the world shrink in many positive ways. But it's also totally destroyed some experiences. The movie Home Alone? That would be resolved by roughly minute 25, when Kevin wakes up and texts his parents, who are en route to the airport, wondering where they are.

Today, we’re reminiscing on the experiences of yesteryear that look completely different now that smartphones have “ruined” them. From showing off your trivia knowledge, to enjoying a dinner uninterrupted by a phone notification, to striking up conversation with a stranger — ahead, here's what we miss about life before we had minicomputers in our pockets.
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You’re at a café, you look over to the stranger next to you and see that they’re reading the book you just finished last week. Do you: A) Ask them how they’re liking it or B) Have a mild panic attack and go back to scrolling on your phone? It's okay, if it's fate, you’ll eventually run into the stranger through some mutual friends on Facebook.
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Whether you’re on a city street or a quiet suburban running path, without fail, you will end up doing some sort of awkward two-step to get around a slow-moving zombie walking while texting. Ugh, it is so irritating. Hold on, we need to stop in this crosswalk to check a message.
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The catch with always being connected? You can never be away! It’s a given that you have your phone on you at all times, so you’re expected to respond to that text, snap, or DM ASAP — there are no away messages. Teens today will never know the satisfaction of sharing favorite Dashboard Confessional lyrics to express the soul-crushing injustice of having to run errands with Mom and being disconnected for 30 minutes of their life. Seriously, the anguish.
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To all those that didn’t have to come of age with an advanced, internet-connected camera pointed at them during their most embarrassing and most inebriated moments, you can let out a big sigh. You made it! The rest of us will never be able to hold office because someone, somewhere, has a picture of us passed out next to a beer bong with inappropriate Sharpie drawings on our face.
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If you’re like us, you’re able to transfer thoughts into written words faster by typing than putting pen to paper — and your penmanship shows it. Since we’re never without a laptop or smartphone, it makes sense that kids don’t even need to know cursive anymore. But let’s be real — handwriting has a certain romance to it. Which is more thrilling: A handwritten love note affixed to a bouquet of roses, or that same letter transcribed in size 12 Arial font in your Gmail inbox? And we still haven’t come across a font that dots its i’s with hearts.
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In the olden times, couples used to meet through friends, family, or even on the street. We wouldn’t dare chance talking to a random person during our work commute. But we’ll stick to finding love on a phone app. No one would have the nerve to swipe left on us!
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7 of 15
Remember when your only struggle while watching live music was angling around the tall, hat wearing guy in front? Now it’s watching the entire set go down through the screens of a couple hundred phones in front of you, all aimed at the stage, doing it for the Instagram. I paid $125 for this?
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Before the cell phone, some of us used a pager. On this ancient device, basically, all you could send was a cryptic, numeric message or your phone number — because all you could send were numbers. But memorizing (and inventing) pager code was an art, perhaps even more elegant than emoji and emoticons. 1-4-3 you too, boo. (Okay, maybe not.)
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For the generation of us that didn’t get their own phones until high school (or later), note passing was an art. Perfecting our handwriting and origami skills with carefully crafted notes to our besties got us through homeroom announcements every morning. The only thing better? The covert hallway note exchange between classes where we knew juicy news was headed our way.
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Unless your crew is dedicated to the phone stack game (Stack phones in center of table. Whoever reaches for their phone first is paying for dinner, or at least a round of drinks), making it through a meal without someone checking their phone is a rare occasion. Seriously, we’re sitting next to one another — we can share our comments in real life.
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We technically have a phone with us at all times, but do you ever actually talk on it? While we once used phone calls to catch up with cross-country BFFs on everything, that’s now been replaced by Gchats, never-ending group texts, and photo sharing contests, I mean, Instagram. Come on, was there anything cooler than Melissa Joan Hart’s see-through phone on Clarissa Explains It All?

At least we have video chatting now, which, in all honesty, is 100 times cooler than just hearing someone’s voice. Thank you, technology!
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12 of 15
Toddlers of today, allow us to sympathize in advance that you’ll be growing up with your whole life documented online. We’re of the belief that all baby photos are cute photos, so don’t fret too much, but it would be nice to have agency over all those moments, right? Think about it, future friends and dates will very likely discover photographic evidence of everything from your chubby baby cheeks to that rash you got at summer camp in fifth grade, all thanks to your loving millennial parents (sorry!) uploading every candid moment.
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Rallying friends on a Tuesday night to kick some trivia ass at your local pub became significantly less fun once all the other teams became mysteriously distracted by a glowing device hiding in their pockets. Your team’s in the lead? Hmm, you don’t say.

Even with smartphones banned at most trivia nights, you can never be 100% sure that the winning team isn't sneaking peeks.
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See also “Bar Trivia Night.” Memorizing five VIP phone numbers? We don’t think we even know our own phone number anymore. Studying a (paper) map to learn your way around a new city? How did we even live before Google Maps?! Without our phone, we think we’d just wander around in circles until we eventually starved to death.
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The thing about having a phone on you at all times is that you're basically wearing an invisible GPS-based sign that says, "I'm right here!" Kids of yore could pack up their most beloved belongings and hoof it into the woods, to a park, or (most likely) down the street to a friend's house to show their parents what's what. These days, it's only a matter of time before a kid "runs away" using an Uber ride.
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