Cover Image: 100 Things We've Lost to the Internet

100 Things We've Lost to the Internet

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Member Reviews

I liked the idea behind this book, but did not care for the author's mostly negative opinions. The internet has definitely made positive improvements in our lives...some just had not so great side effects. Kind of like medication.  Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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The ubiquity of the internet. It is part of our everyday lives, like it or not. Over the past quarter-century, the online explosion has radically altered the world and the way we move through it.

For many of you, that has always been the world. If you were born anytime after 1990 or so, you likely have no memories of a world without the internet. Sure, you might recall the frustrating early days of dial-up modems and slow-loading websites, a time when your entire afternoon might be spent downloading a single song. But the internet is and has always been omnipresent.

However, those of us who are older have clear and distinct memories of a different time and place. A time and place where the internet felt more like science fiction than simple reality. We’ve said good-bye to a lot of things from those bygone days – some of them minor, some incredibly significant – but the one factor they all have in common is that they don’t appear to be coming back.

Thus we get “100 Things We've Lost to the Internet.” Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, offers up a collection of snapshots from the before times, quick-hit glimpses at a vast array of items and experiences that are simply … gone. They exist only in old photographs (remember those?) or increasingly dusty memories. These habits and learned behaviors, these compulsions and desires – vanished, never to be experienced by those who came after.

These short essays explore the vast array of alterations wrought by the internet, all of them presented with a combination of wistfulness and self-effacing humor. Because here’s the thing – while we might miss a lot of this stuff, we also have to concede that in a lot of ways, we’re better off … even if we perhaps don’t want to admit it. And some of it? Well … some of it we sure would like to have back.

From the very first entry – titled “Boredom” and reflective of the dichotomous nature of this conversation – we hit the ground running. On its face, it seems odd to bemoan the dearth of boredom – who wants to be bored? But as so many people are learning, that absence of boredom – having the breadth of the internet at one’s fingertips at all times – precludes the imaginative outbursts that boredom prompts. When there’s no need to figure out something to do, we instead … do nothing, idly scrolling our way through the hours. You might not like being bored, but in some ways, you kind of need to be every once in a while.

A lot of these entries might read as minor, but others are reflective of broader changes. Number 20, for instance, is “The Phone in the Kitchen.” In an age of smartphones, precious few even have a landline anymore. But if you were a teenager back then – as I was – then that phone was a central cog in your social life. We’ve got entries on handwritten letters and penmanship and spelling – all dinosaurs in their way.

As a longtime accumulator of random knowledge, certain entries – “Being the Only One,” “Figuring Out Who That Actor Is” – hit me where I live; remembering trivia is no longer nearly as impressive when everyone has the capability to find the answer in seconds.

On and on the list goes, with every minor shift adding to the pile. What “100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internet” does so well is illustrate the growth of that pile; while any individual item might be no big deal, the collected set is significant. It’s a list of ways in which the world now is different from the world then – no small thing when dealing with a culture as susceptible to nostalgia as our own.

Obviously, Paul isn’t saying that everything back then was better. Time marches on, after all, and it’s tough to argue against the many benefits that the internet has brought into our lives. But that isn’t really the point. It’s not about whether it used to be better, it’s that it used to be different. And so much of who we are is shaped by the experiences of our formative years; what does it mean when the shape taken by those years is so drastically different from one generation to the next?

“100 Things We've Lost to the Internet” is a fun read for those of us who share some of Paul’s memories and experiences. We remember what it was like and we like to remember. The landscape has shifted, and no doubt it will shift again as technology’s exponential advancement continues on apace. This book serves as a reminder of the simple truth that when gains are made, sometimes something is lost.
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This book was an enjoyable. It's prefect for short bursts of reading. My favorites were The Meet-Cute, Bad Photos, TV Guide, Handwritten Letters, & CliffsNotes
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Pamela Paul’s 100 Things We’ve Lost to the Internet is an amiable, browsable series of brief essays exploring, usually though not always with a pang of regret, those things and actions made obsolete by the internet, such as phone calls, paper maps, filing, and more. Or as she puts it in the introduction: “the things we achingly miss, the things we hardly knew existed, the things to which we can give a hard adios.”

Paul also early on acknowledges that a number of these will be idiosyncratic losses, defined by her own background: her age, her socio-economic status, etc. She notes early on that “my own grievances reflect my experience as a Gen Xer … the priorities of a reader … the hopes and anxieties of a mother of three in New York.” She also quickly forestalls any charges that she is a luddite; she happily recognizes the many benefits of the web, and even, with regard to some of the lost objects/acts, bids them farewell with a cheery “good-riddance.”  

The pieces themselves are brief, a few a mere couple of sentences or paragraphs with most coming in at 2-3 pages and mostly covering just what one (at least one of a certain age range) would expect. Along with the above, that includes answering machines, getting lost, taking photographs, flea markets, old-style TV watching, etc. There’s a sense therefore of familiarity to a number of the pieces, and I found my favorites were the more unexpected ones, such as ignoring people or solo travel.

Their tone is mostly light and light-hearted, whimsical at times, self-deprecating at moments, sometimes funny, other times sad.  But the emotions are always moderate—never too high, never too low. The writing is always clear and precise, the voice engaging and conversational, the pieces reading almost as a cross between an informal blog and more formal essays. They mostly skim the surface, dipping a few times a bit deeper, but never for too long.  I did at times find myself wishing for a bit more substance, a deeper dive into the ramifications of what was lost. But that’s clearly not Paul’s goal here so it can hardly be lodged as a writing critique, more a wistful “it would have been nice” desire, given just how smooth a writer she is. Because of that, and the similarity in tone and subject, I’d recommend it be read over several days/nights rather than straight or nearly straight through. And since there’s no grand arc, one can feel free to open up to whatever topic strikes their fancy.  

Well written, well covered if not exhaustive in terms of content, a welcome wry and observant voice.  Recommended.
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This isn’t my typical read but I’m glad I found it while scrolling through NetGalley. Most of Paul’s list was way before my time, so I got to relive those while reading through the list. Most of the things he discussed are important concepts, since we’ve slowly been losing certain aspects of life thanks to the Internet.
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I couldn't agree more. I have a grown granddaughter who has known nothing except the internet world. My friends and I often talk about how we grew up in kinder and simpler world. The internet has both simplified and complicated our lives, but it saddens me that we have lost civility in the process.
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This is a fascinating little book about the many ways that our lives have changed because of the Internet. There's the obvious ways, like communication and shopping, but what about things like how your brain works? Sometimes sad, always enlightening, I highly recommend.
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Well, I didn't really agree that we lost boredom. Even with the internet today, and so many things to do on it, I feel bored lol. But other than that, the book was a great look at what we've left behind, for better or worse.
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Thanks for a copy of this book in exchange for honest feedback. I thought that this book was quaint, kinda funny, kinda poignant. I liked the idea and the little illustrations. This would be a fun book to browse through or to gift.
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Paul has an incredible list of "things" that have been lost to the internet-- in actuality many of the things are actually ideas or concepts. In the list, a couple of my personal favorite items were the reminders of my using my grandparent's rotary phone and taking a picture with a camera. Paul has a fun way of explaining the way things were and comparing it to them to technology of today. This is a great book for young adults to perhaps explain 'quirks' they see from older generations. It appears that most of this book was written before the worldwide closures due to COVID-19. In many ways the internet was not all that bad and made it possible to keep people connected during a trying time. I am intrigued to see what (if any) edits are made in the published edition. 


***Thank you NetGalley for providing me with access to this e-preview. This review is based on an ARC.***
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I don't  know if I noticed all things that we havel ost to the interent, although I have noticed a lot of them.  Being of a certain age I bemoan the fact that so many of them are gone.  Young people will not even realize how times have changed.  For the better?  In some respects yes, in others, good grief no.  We just have to accept the cfact, make the best of it and move on.
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