From mental math to using libraries to playing board games, here are the basic skills we’re rapidly losing.
Last week, I had to send a check to a friend. Which brought up three problems. (1) I haven’t used my checkbook in months, where is it? (2) I don’t have stamps or envelopes. (3) I have no idea where to find any mailboxes in my neighborhood.
In other words — I’m grossly unqualified to perform a task that was considered sub-rudimentary just a decade ago.
A few weeks ago, I saw a survey by the British insurance company Churchill (which, naturally, led to me yelling “Impeach Churchill!”) on skills that are disappearing thanks to modern technology. After my mail fiasco, I decided to see if they’d send me all of their findings so I could put together an 11 Points list. They were on board.
So here are the top 11 basic skills we used to take for granted that are now being wiped out by technology.
11 | Playing playground games
I have no idea what goes on today during recess. Do they even allow recess anymore, or has that been helicoptered away due to the possibility of someone scraping a knee or feeling bad because they get picked last? But if recess does still exist, I assume it looks like every other place these days: Everyone sitting there staring at the screen in their hand. This lack of playground game skill is going to hamper America significantly if freeze tag ever successfully petitions its way into the Olympics.
10 | Calling friends just to talk
With Facebook, we know what our friends are up to without talking to them. And with texting, we don’t have to talk to *anyone* anymore. It’s both wonderfully efficient and horribly lonely.
9 | Mental math
Here’s a quick tip: The disappearance of mental math is a good thing, because now people are more impressed when you do it. I keep myself sharp on mental math so I can appear smart whenever someone starts throwing around numbers. Because, as always, seeming smart is just as effective as (if not more effective than) being smart.
8 | Making photo albums/scrapbooks
Printing the photos you take on your phone seems like something we all like “in theory” more than “in practice.” Which is shocking, since Instagram has created an entire generation of people who all genuinely believe they’re photography masters. Do we really think one day those little placards next to photos in art galleries are going to be clogged up with hashtags?
7 | Reading a map
I think the blue is land.
6 | Sending postcards on vacation
This one feels tragic to me. I’m finally going to have a wife, one day I’ll be on a trip without her, and I won’t even have the option to send her a postcard featuring an over-airbrushed bikini model with the slogan “Wish you were her.” That’s the undisputed pinnacle of tourist comedy! It even beats out a t-shirt that says “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.”
5 | Playing board games
My list on the 11 Board Games Most Likely to Spark Actual Fights still gets linked to a ton, so I know some people out there are still playing board games. And still beating each other up over them. Let’s all just hope, for the sake of the classics, those beatings continue.
4 | Using the phone book
I’m not so worried about the death of the phone book — knowing that you look up plumbers under “p” is not a valuable skill — except for its impact on the future short children of America. There are going to be some really bummed out short guys in the class photos of the future.
3 | Using the library
I feel like, if I really had to, I could go to a library, look something up on the computer, find its Dewey Decimal number, then find it on the shelf. Because I have the ability to count. But I’m not sure if I could handle a card catalog without a refresher course. I’m sure one of the library’s many masturbating homeless people could help me out with that.
2 | Using encyclopedias and dictionaries
I have fully adjusted to having my encyclopedias written by random Internet shmoes as opposed to guys with horn-rimmed glasses, tweed jackets and taut bow ties. Although if I see a set of encyclopedias on someone’s shelf, I will do a little reading. You can never learn too much about Czechoslovakia or the art of mimeograph.
1 | Writing thank-you notes
Totally makes sense as number one. This requires so many disappearing skills working together in simultaneous harmony. Cursive handwriting. Having stamps. Knowing people’s addresses. Licking. Taking a brief pause from being completely self-absorbed. I mean, come on — we’re not miracle workers.