‘In Olden Times It Was Different’


This headline quotes from The Medical Record, circa 1884, lamenting how the “chief characteristics of modern business (is) to be always in a hurry.”

While we might re-word that to “back in the day, things were different,” it turns out that we’ve been singing the same song for over 100 years: “life is too busy,” “we can’t keep up with business,” “we have to remember to stop and smell the roses.”

There was a recent post that caught my eye on this geeky blog that my husband reads called xkcd (described as a “webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language” – also a note: some salty language can be found throughout the blog, but none on this particular posting).

The blog post has collected quotes from a number of editorials from journals and magazines spanning 1871 to 1915. In it, the authors sorrowfully explained how the pace of life was too frenetic, that no one just enjoyed a good conversation anymore, and that the art of letter writing was dying out.

Can it be that people over a century ago were as annoyed with technological advances – such as printing presses and long-distance travel (gasp!) – as we are with our technology today?

Apparently, the answer is "yes." Well, at least we can take heart in realizing that our ancestors were no better than we are and people have been having this exact same conversation for over a century.

My favorite part is this entry from The Journal of Education, Volume 29 from 1907:

“Our modern family gathering, silent around the fire, each individual with his head buried in his favourite magazine, is the somewhat natural outcome of the banishment of colloquy from the school …”

You could probably replace “favourite magazine” with smartphone, and “silent around the fire” with “silent in front of the television” for a fast-forward to family gatherings today.

If only our ancestors could see us now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *