Ah, the classic clash of generations – a timeless tale of wrinkled brows and eye rolls. It’s no secret that older people often shake their heads in disbelief at the younger generation’s take on the past decades. “Back in my day,” they say, and we, the younger lot, just can’t seem to grasp what they’re getting at. So, what exactly are these misconceptions that make the older generation sigh in exasperation?
One Redditor asked, “Older Redditors, what do young people get completely wrong about past decades?” Many users commented on this post, and we have listed the top 20 ones for you.
A person commented, “Up until video rental stores in the early 80’s, at school the next day, every kid was talking about what was on TV the night before, as every single family was watching TV together every single night. With some exceptions, most people watched the same thing as their schoolmates or co-workers, just to be a part of the conversation.”
Another added, “There’s something very isolating about modern media. You can be into a TV show or YouTube series, and nobody else you know has heard of it. I’m a fan of a YouTube series that’s pretty popular and very well regarded amongst its fans, and only one of my friends has heard about it.”
If you missed a show, tough luck – no streaming, no YouTube. You either caught it when it aired, or you were out of luck.
2. Finding the Answers
If you wanted to know something, you hit the library or asked your know-it-all friend. It made every discussion a potential adventure into the unknown.
Someone wrote, “Probably just how often you had to accept that you couldn’t find the answer to something.”
Another responded, “If you had a question, you could ask your family, maybe your friends, maybe your teachers, and your last chance was to check the library. But if the library didn’t have the answer, then you just had to accept that you weren’t going to get an answer (or you’d have to hope to come across that answer someday in the future). Now you just ask Google and get 10 answers in just seconds.”
You didn’t just snap pics of your lunch; film rolls were expensive, and you had a limited number of shots. Every picture had to count.
Someone shared, “It was incredibly common to just not have pictures of events or other things we see as important now. Not only did we have entire vacations where no pictures were taken, we could go months without a single picture being taken of any member of our family unless it was particularly notable.”
Another replied, “A trip to St Louis? No pictures. A trip to Disneyland? Maybe a picture at the entry gate or one of the souvenir pictures of us with a character. A trip to the zoo? No pictures. An average day? Forget about it! Frequently, the only pictures taken were at major holidays like Christmas or on someone’s birthday.”
Now, smoking – everybody and their grandma smoked. It was like a rite of passage. Doctors, teachers, parents – you name it, they all puffed away without a care in the world.
A person commented, “They understand restaurants had “smoking sections” and that bars & clubs were filled with cigarette smoke. But I don’t think many understood how pervasive smoking was. There were ashtrays and people smoking literally EVERYWHERE. Jury boxes had ashtrays in front of every juror. Judge smoked, lawyers smoked, the gallery smoked.”
Another added, “You smoked on planes, trains, busses, taxicabs, and all transportation centers. You smoked at the library, the PTO meetings at schools, the town hall, and all city offices.”
5. Having Fun
Someone wrote, “I am definitely an older Redditor (born in 1949). What today’s young people don’t appreciate is how, growing up, we had to invent our own sources of fun.”
Another responded, “There were no video games (which I enjoy playing), just 3 channels on a black-and-white TV (we didn’t get color until 1967), and no real entertainment aimed at kids. All we could do is interact with each other and play established games like marbles or maybe an organized sport like Little League baseball.”
Sitting around a table, laughing, arguing, and bonding over a game of Monopoly – those were the moments that made life memorable.
6. Drinking and Driving
Now, here’s a shocker – drinking and driving? Yeah, that was shockingly common. Nobody batted an eye.
Someone shared, “How common drinking & driving was. Until MADD came along, people did this routinely. It’s where “one for the road” originated.”
Another added, “Yes! When my friends and I had our 18th birthday in the late 1979s, the thing to do was to celebrate by driving through Beer Barn, where you could literally drive through to get beer, wine, wine coolers, whatever. Then, open them up and drive while drinking at 18. This was in Texas. Zero education on why you should not do that.”
With no smartphones to distract, conversations were the source of entertainment.
A person commented, “We talked a lot. Like, A LOT. If you had questions, you talked. Then you went to the library. And then you talked some more.”
Another replied, “And wrote letters. And passed notes. The chatter never stopped. People would scold women for gossiping and make jokes about it, but the men were just the same.”
8. Casual Violence
Someone wrote, “Maybe not everyone’s experience, but for me, there was casual violence everywhere. Smacking kids was not only tolerated but expected. Hit by parents, friends’ parents, random adults in the neighborhood, teachers, etc. Then you’d get beat for making the teacher hit you.”
Another responded, “The greatest sin I could commit when I was a kid was to embarrass my mom. My dad’s spankings hurt more, but he would at least be calm and measured about it most of the time.”
Now, that’s odd and quirky at the same time, right?
9. What Others Thought
Oh boy, parents back then? They were obsessed with what the neighbors thought. Your shirt wrinkled? Oh, the horror!
Someone shared, ““What will the neighbors think” was real.”
Another added, “Yes, our parents were very concerned about what others thought.”
A person commented, “9/11. Younger people don’t truly understand how the entire nation froze in shock. Security was never the same. For example, Traveling via air was never the same afterward. I missed the days of walking my friends/family to the gate and dropping them off.”
Another replied, “They don’t understand that essentially nothing has been the same since, and everything this country is going through right now can in some way trace a through line directly back to the effects that 9/11 had.”
The world went from being this relatively carefree place to a land of heightened security checks and constant anxiety. Suddenly, airports became fortresses, and our innocence was shattered.
Someone wrote, “Towns had repair shops for everything. You just didn’t buy a disposable TV. If it broke, you took it in to get it fixed. Nowadays, if your TV breaks, it’s tossed, and you get a new one.”
Another responded, “Yep, working in computer repair, computer, and phone companies realized they’d make more money if they made it as difficult as possible to fix. But people started realizing that, so we’re fighting the “right to repair” fight.”
Need your toaster fixed? There was a shop for that. Vacuum cleaner acting up? No worries, there was a repair guy just down the street. Unlike today, where we toss things away at the first sign of trouble, they believe in fixing stuff.
12. Neon Colors
Someone shared, “You will notice a very glaring lack of neon, crazy hairstyles, leotards, and all the other trapping that are associated with “80s fashion”.”
Another added, “Speaking of the 80s…we didn’t just wear bright, neon colors all the time. That’s definitely a cognitive dissonance thing. It was an MTV thing, not a real-life thing.”
Seriously, if you wore neon green on the street, people would think you escaped from a sci-fi movie set.
A person commented, “That all 80’s and 90’s music was good. There was plenty of bad music released then like there is now; it’s just that the bad music got buried quickly while the best hits continue to get played today.”
Another replied, “I was a teen in the 80’s and 20’s in the 90’s. The 90’s music was amazing; the 80’s sucked big time.”
It was the era of catchy beats and questionable fashion choices. But hey, they danced to it like nobody was watching, and that’s what counts, right?
The older generation lived through a time when feminism wasn’t this cool, modern concept. It was more like a moldy old book tucked away in the back of the library. But guess what? Feminism isn’t some ancient relic; it’s a living, breathing movement.
Someone wrote, “That feminism isn’t some moldy concept from the distant past.”
Another responded, “In the US, this discrimination in education wasn’t outlawed until 1972, which just happened to be the same year unmarried women were legally allowed access to birth control.”
15. Landline Telephones
Someone shared, “Landline telephones had seriously great audio quality. Better than anything for remote conversation today, in my opinion.”
Another added, “I distinctly remember being a teenager and just talking on the phone with someone late into the night, hearing them breathe and sigh, hearing their every little sound. There wasn’t the lag, the noise canceling, and the high compression that ruins telephony today. It was a much purer way to feel like you were closer to someone than anything we have today.”
None of this muffled, robotic voice nonsense we sometimes get on our smartphones today. Back then, when you talked, it felt like the person was right there in the room with you.
Now, speaking of travel, imagine this: no GPS, no Google Maps, just good old paper maps.
A person commented, “Travel. Reading paper maps and scanning for roadsides and landmarks to guide you to destinations you have never been to. Half of my younger coworkers couldn’t point north if asked without their phones.”
Another replied, “My kids have basically refused to figure out how to use maps. They figure that either the GPS will always work, or they just won’t go out if they don’t know how to get somewhere. Or somehow, miraculously figure it out, I guess? I don’t really know their thought process on this.”
17. Minimum Wage
Someone wrote, “They believe that you could support a family on minimum wage. I was working minimum wage in the early 1970s, and it was nowhere near enough to live on my own, much less have a house and a family.”
Another added, “This. There is some misconception that the smiling family of a man, woman, and two kids lived happily in a large home with everything they needed on a pittance of a factory worker’s salary.”
Nowadays, it’s a whole different story. Minimum wage barely covers the basics, and making ends meet is quite challenging!
Someone shared, “Journalism has changed. You used to be able to trust in the integrity of the journalist.”
Another responded, “Now, they’re interchangeable, and all we know is the network. It has changed the way we trust the new media, and it’s not good. We shouldn’t underestimate the danger of this change.”
There was no need for fact-checking every news piece. You could rely on the news to be, well, news, not some sensationalized version of events designed to grab eyeballs.
19. Service Station
Service stations – now there’s a term you don’t hear much anymore. Back then, getting gas wasn’t just a transaction; it was an experience.
A person commented, “Mom drove up to a service station, and when the car rolled over the small hoses on the ground, the bell went off – DING DING! A young man in overalls came running out and began filling the tank, then checked the oil, washed the windows, and checked the tire pressure, all before the tank was full. Then he’d complete the cash transaction, and off you went.”
Another replied, “Service stations all carried paper maps, but you had to talk to people, too. They’d say things like, “Well, the last fuel for 200 miles is up yonder, so if you keep driving, you’d best make sure you got a full tank before you head out.””
20. Paper Money
Someone wrote, “Paper checks were another one. There weren’t ATMs, so you got a paper check and had to go to the bank during banking hours. And you could withdraw money, and you could write a check.”
Another added, “If the place you wanted to go didn’t take checks, like a movie theater, and you didn’t have cash, you just didn’t get to go. You had to wait until the bank opened Monday morning.”
Now, it’s all digital transactions and plastic cards. Convenience, yes, but the charm of tangible money? That’s a thing of the past.
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