I watched 1998’s You’ve Got Mail last night and was in for the shock of my life.
In it, I saw families walking around New York, holding hands and enjoying the weather.
In it, I saw people reading paper Kindles … with their full attention.
In it, I saw a man kicking back on a couch, talking with his family without clutching and thumbing anything at all.
You’ve Got Mail was at the doorstep of the dawn of the digital age and seeing how primitive we were just twenty-one years ago was remarkably like a dream on the tip of your brain you can’t quite seem to remember at first yawn.
Twenty-one years ago, people were looked in the eyes on a frequent basis. They shook hands and spoke clearly without mumbling words they’d forgotten how to pronounce. They lived in the “real world” as though they weren’t aware the digital world is where real emotions came from. (If you showed someone from 1998 what our lives are like now, they’d probably call it an “abstraction” or something completely uninformed by the millions on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram living in the blue light. They were such solitary beings then, holding hands and enjoying the air without even a face to the sky to capture the best selfie with that hour’s sun … )
Someone from 1998 would be shocked by how illuminated our minds have become with the clarity of anger and convenience. They didn’t seem the sort to think that calling-in [*shiver] a pizza order instead of using the app is something completely normal to be nervous about. Children held balloons at carnivals unaware that they might catch a gust of wind and become violence against someone nearby.
In You’ve Got Mail, people had internal monologues that weren’t given to them through earbuds from consolidated corporate sources. I heard them thinking to themselves instead of feeling together with the same earbuds. 1998 must have been a hellish time for people who would naturally want voices in their heads 24/7, which is clearly all of us here in 2019.
“What did they do with their hands” you might wonder? I did. In a frame-by-frame analysis, it seems they swung them freely without looking uncomfortable, or gestured with them, invalidating the space of others in a flagrant display of disrespect. In addition, they had very odd posture, as one can imagine. It appears that the human necks of the digital age’s birth were more … vertical, like a giraffe’s. Now it seems such a stupid exposure of a vulnerability in a world beset by the snapping fangs of political aggression hundreds or thousands of miles away. (It didn’t seem they were even AWARE of how vitally important every single issue was to every moment of their emotions.)
But in the end of the movie, the internet (cell phones were for the very rich back then) brought two people together to hook up with one another. It was relatively sweet and heartwarming. I mean, it wasn’t Tinder, or anything … but at least it was something.
Thank the cloud we finally have everything.