1. Instant Sweepstakes Results on Product Packages
The cola wars of the late 80s may have resulted in some desperate attempts to reinvent soda like New Coke and Pepsi Clear, but at least their promotional sweepstakes were cut and dry, with the results printed right inside the cap. Just twist it off and there it was: “Sorry, you are not an instant winner.” End of discussion. Other product-sponsored giveaways had similar easy to obtain results. Scratch here: “Sorry, try again.” Lift this flap: “Thanks for playing!” Now you’re required to go to a website, create a user ID and log-in so you can enter a code along with all of your personal data to find out that you didn’t win. So not only are you still a loser, you’re also going to be inundated with spam and have your information vulnerable to yet another hacker.
2. Getting Cool Stuff with Your Music Purchase
There is an ongoing debate about whether digital music is too “compressed” and lacks the “warmth” of sound you get from a needle on a vinyl record. I’m not enough of an audiophile to have an opinion on that, but I do know what digital and streamed music definitely does lack: Posters! Stickers! Lyric sheets! Merchandise catalogs! 8×10 band photos! Fan club membership forms! Hey, let’s not forget picture discs, gatefold album covers and the ability to spin the platter backwards to hear hidden satanic messages! Record albums had room for all sorts of bonus swag that you can’t get in the form of ones and zeros. Granted, these extras started to dwindle with the advent of cassette tapes and CDs, but iTunes and Pandora spelled the end. I’ve read that vinyl is making a comeback. Maybe the freebies will too.
3. True Teenage Abandon
I have to give my pre-internet/smartphone parents credit. They would let my friends and I head out on the weekends with just the sketchiest of details as to where we were going, no idea what we were actually doing and no way to reach us. They trusted that we would stay out of trouble, jail and the morgue. No text messaging. No GPS tracking. No location services. So off we went! Young and reckless! Running wild in the streets! Absolute pimply-faced freedom! Sure, there might be a rule to check-in by pay phone, but with no caller ID, how hard was it to say you’re at the library instead of a keg party? Sorry, Millennials, connectivity is great and all, but it doesn’t allow for a rebellious youth.
4. Water Cooler TV Show Talk
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an internet-hating Luddite. The ability to access TV shows at different times to accommodate our busy schedules is a wonderful convenience. Right now I’m halfway through season two of Orphan Black. The downside to all of this Netflix-viewing, Hulu-streaming and binge-watching is that we’ve lost the collective shared experience of discussing a TV show everyone saw the night before at the same time. Back in the day, we all found out at once who shot J.R. and you knew that everybody in the room saw the last episode of M*A*S*H*. This is no longer the case with our disjointed, delayed, device-enabled viewing habits. Plot points and cliffhangers have joined politics and religion as taboo topics for casual conversation. Magazines and websites have to provide Spoiler Alerts. So be careful! One innocent Facebook post about a season finale could get you massively unfriended.
5. Relative Isolation of Embarrassing Moments
We’ve all been there. A few too many kooky-tails at the company party and you’re standing on top of the copy machine doing air guitar with your pants around your ankles. Okay, so you looked like an ass (and showed yours) to your boss and some co-workers, and a few years ago that would be that. Damage control was fairly easy with a couple apologies and some “let’s keep this between ourselves.” Nowadays these isolated incidents don’t stay that way for long. Everyone has become a potential paparazzo, eager to whip out a phone cam to document your drunken stunt and upload it to YouTube in glorious hi-def. Your “claim to shame” clip will get a million hits and be featured on Jimmy Kimmel in the time it takes you to hurl a gut-load of jungle juice into a wastebasket (which will be another million-hit clip). Welcome to internet stardom, schmuck!
6. Shopping and Browsing
In their efforts to improve our shopping experience, e-tailers paid a bunch of eggheads far too much to devise algorithms that do far too little in successfully predicting our wants and needs. Bought a hand-vac? Then you must be in the market for a juice machine! Browsing for Walking Dead DVDs? How about season three of Mike and Molly? They’d have better luck throwing darts at the Sunday newspaper ads. Even one or two online purchases will result in numerous terrible email suggestions: “Here are some other items you might enjoy based on your interest in…” DELETE! I’ve thrown a wrench in my recommendation engine by using online shopping sites as a research tool for my writing. Due to this wide range of unrelated browsing, Amazon thinks I’m a 72-year-old Croatian woman who drives a Tesla and has an interest in deep-sea diving, Maroon 5, Barbie dolls, hand-vacs (see what I mean?), and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air while suffering from toe fungus and an addiction to penile enhancement pills.