Unlearn as if you were to live forever.
Whether or not it’s due to technology, there are certain things society doesn’t know how to do anymore. “Unlearning” may seem like it has a negative connotation; however, research indicates it’s clearly a part of adapting to change — and even learning. Simply put: We tend to forget how to carry out practices that we don’t need and that fellow humans aren’t pushing us to use (Vanderbilt University researchers call it “reciprocal behaviors”).
But enough of that mumbo jumbo. Here are seven things that we are unlearning at breakneck speed:
1. Telling Time
Though most of us had the little-hand, big-hand conundrum solved by kindergarten, when’s the last time we’ve actually looked at a traditional clock over our cellphones to get the time?
Our body may have a circadian rhythm to fall back on, but telling time on an analog clock is becoming a lost art. In fact, a BMRB International study pointed out that this unlearning process is affecting how we say the time. Thanks to digital clocks on computers, alarms and other devices, younger children are more likely to say “10:45” than “a quarter to 11.”
Should we be worried, or should we resign ourselves to going digital? After all, there are very few things more annoying than cranking an analog clock an entire hour forward or back for Daylight Saving. Fashion will probably keep the practice of wearing a chronometer from going completely extinct. (But hell if I know if we’ll be able to decipher what it’s telling us.)
2. Writing a Letter
The salutation. The body. The closing. And some other stuff. Most people know, in theory, how to write a letter. But with email and antisociality being all the rage, being fussed enough to pick up a pen and paper to write something? In 2017? Can’t relate.
So we’re left with the current situation: The United States Postal Service is bleeding money and it’s all our fault. And we’re paying for it with spam mail overwhelming our Gmail accounts and being badgered by relatives via Facebook Messenger. Fair tradeoff.
3. Memorizing Phone Numbers
Keeping your closest friends’ and family members’ numbers in a worn-out address book is no longer a thing. An alarming number of people don’t know their work, spouses’ or kids’ phone numbers off the top of their head. So now we’re left praying the cloud doesn’t randomly delete our contacts.
Phone books have become more environmentally friendly, and the days of lugging a 20-pound directory off your doorstep are long gone. But if you’re feeling sentimental, fear not. Most phone companies will send a phone book to your home if you request one. You’ll probably have to Google the number first, though.
4. Writing & Reading Cursive
Writing in cursive affords the much-needed opportunity to be superfluous and self-indulgent. However, there’s a slew of worthwhile benefits that come with nailing this soon-to-be-obsolete handwriting system. Kids who know how to read cursive know how to read print. The same can’t be said the other way around. And, believe it or not, writing in cursive improves our fine-motor skills and eye-hand coordination. So there’s that.
While we may have counted out cursive writing, history certainly hasn’t. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are just a few important documents written in cursive, though Justin Pot argues, “There’s literally no reason for schools to teach the Palmer Method,” which was popularized in the early 20th century and is still taught today, “outside of nostalgia.”
Older generations might remember their elementary school teacher telling them that writing in cursive is quicker and more efficient than writing in print. That’s a hard argument to sell to the kids of today, who are typing essays faster than we could figure out how to correctly hold a pencil.
And though my John Hancock could be described as anything but cursive, I still think the younger generations should learn to write and read cursive — so they can forget all of it by high school like the rest of us.
5. Checking out a Book
If Conan the Librarian asked, “Don’t you know the Dewey Decimal System?” the answer would be a resounding no. When’s the last time most of us have checked out a book from, let alone stepped into, the library?
It’s worth noting that three-fourths of U.S. public libraries offer e-book lending as of 2012. Shockingly, the Pew Research Center found a majority of participants were unaware their library offered this service. However, the issue appears to be a preference for online booksellers over brick-and-mortar stores. Just ask Borders (RIP).
Arthur told us many moons ago, “Having fun isn’t hard when you got a library card.” Well, he must not understand how magical you feel after clicking Proceed to checkout on Amazon. Can’t unlearn that.
6. Reading Maps
Reading a map isn’t an easy task. Thanks to mobile GPS, avoiding crashing while opening a 20-foot map in a six-foot-wide car during a cross-country road trip is a thing of the past. Thank God.
What if I lose my cell signal? I’ll take that risk.
And while I, a jaded millennial, see little to no value in knowing how to read a map, researchers believe map reading is integral to developing kids’ spatial thinking. Temple University’s Dr. Nora Newcombe told Learn Now that the skill involves picturing “the locations of objects, their shapes, their relations to each other and the paths they take as they move” — which we do, in one capacity or another, on an everyday basis. But I stand by my previous comments.
7. Flushing Toilets
Stay with me on this one: The entire bathroom-going experience is not ours anymore. Everything is automated: toilets, bidets, sinks and hand dryers. There is very little you need to do while you, well, doo.
The biggest kicker is that, while you’d think all this automation would conserve resources and be more sanitary, it might all be for naught. Automatic toilets typically waste more water than their so-called antiquated counterpart. After all, who hasn’t felt frustrated when a toilet decides to flush before you’re good and damn ready? And, because of their unique plumbing systems, hands-free faucets spread more germs than manual taps, according to John Hopkins researchers. It doesn’t stop there. Hand dryers are effective at launching bacteria into the air; Ars Technica aptly compared the use of hurricane-grade Dyson hand dryers to “setting off a viral bomb in the bathroom.” The entire system is corrupt, if you ask me.