What was life REALLY like in the 80’s-90’s?

What was life REALLY like in the 80’s-90’s?

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  1. Without romanticizing it, here are some real differences.

    People weren’t “connected” and reachable 24/7. Mentally you were in one place at a time and your full attention was there. People would have to wait until after 6-7pm to know you were at home to call you. You had to make plans days ahead of time, because once you were at the mall you couldn’t call friends to come. You’d have to circulate between main hubs/hangout spots/neighborhoods/houses to see who was there.

    There definitely was still a mentality of parents just accepting that their kid was going to be out all day after school until dinner time, it wasn’t some missing persons case if you were gone an entire day.

    Entertainment was much more homogenized with less options. Everyone was listening to the same radio stations, watching the same handful of network tv channels, etc. You didn’t have endless options so you would constantly rewatch the same VHSs and listen to the same albums you owned. It took a lot more dedication to be into non-mainstream stuff. People who were into obscure weird or fringe music/film stuff would pass around VHS and cassette tapes that were dubbed a million times, it was like physically going “viral” (Watch the documentary “Shut Up Little Man” to see what I mean).

    The country was a lot more religious. Christianity was still very much dominant in the mainstream culture. You see a lot of culture around the end of the 90’s being obsessed with atheism as a radical act. Now nobody cares, it’s almost the default.

    Before the internet there was a lot more distinct regional culture.

  2. Man, I can’t help but respond to 80s questions.

    Ecstasy was legal, pay $5 cover charge get a hit of x. Pre MADD and DARE. Cops put my underage drunk ass in the trunk of a friend’s car and asked him to drive me home. Gays were out, we thought racism was over. We were all bonded by a youth spent knowing we might be vaporized at any moment and there wasn’t shit we could do about. So we laughed and dance.

    [Have an 80s tribute](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0eflYLkI4A)

  3. There seemed to be more trust in the various institutions that now prey on society. Banks seemed like a good place to keep your savings. The news wasn’t inundated by product placements nor dominated by opinion pieces. The police weren’t as ready to go to war against the population as a whole. Comcast hadn’t stumbled upon the concept of bundling services yet.

    Then there were the day to day things, like shopping: it felt like more of an honest endeavor: Walmart had competition, Amazon didn’t exist, and specialty stores abounded. School shootings weren’t really a thing yet. Terrorism was mostly something they just made movies about. The oft-mentioned lack of constant communication with each other made every errand feel more like a potential adventure. Nobody knew who Dr. Phil was.

    Then there were some not-so-great things. The smell of cigarette smoke was ubiquitous. Kids were meant to be seen, but not heard. Interracial relationships or being anything other than hetero- was something most people kept hidden. Weed was so illegal people’d snitch on you for it here and there. Misinformation couldn’t be fact-checked via google, so you’d find pockets of ignorance that literally couldn’t be rivaled.

    For me personally, I lived in a poorer area with a wild mix of what people called ‘white trash’, a higher-than-average ratio of minorities, crazies, hermits, retired folk, and blue-collars. Hard drugs were imminent. Racism was openly touted. The smell of poor was *everywhere*. People would gather together and socialize anyways. Board games, cards, dominoes, horse shoes, darts…video games were a lot more rare, and there was no Netflix, so people would drink and smoke and stand around fires bullshitting. There just felt like there was more going on between everybody: we all seem so much more isolated now.

    I could ramble on like a middle-aged go-nowhere trying to adapt to the ever-turbulent earthscape we’re all clinging to, or wax nostalgic or even analytical about things, but walls of text are daunting. To sum up: things felt like they were beginning to get out of hand, but they hadn’t yet. Now it’s a swirl of too many things to keep track of and assigning importance to trends and conditions is also daunting.

  4. I finished school in 1986 and got my first job in an office in 1987.

    Australia in 1987 did not have smoking regulations, so lots of people smoked in the office I worked in. I would come home every day smelling of cigarettes. The aluminium which held the windows was stained yellow.

    In 1988 when the laws came in, smokers would all congregate outside for their smokes. “Smoko!” my boss would say, and 3-4 people would join him outside.

    Our office didn’t have air conditioning until about 1988 or 1989. So summers were pretty warm at the desk.

    The career women I saw were very competent in their jobs but the sexism from the men was overwhelming. I saw women being touched and brushed against all the time, one guy in particular targeting one career women. I never did any of this myself, but I hardly took a stand against it either.

    Liquid lunches were common – where people would go to lunch at a pub and drink a little bit too much.

    I wore a thin tie at work, and I had a mullet.

    In terms of discussing politics at the time, everyone usually had a strong opinion, but the more common one was that “both sides are just as bad as each other”. Very few people saw the other side of politics as an existential threat (which is common today), but there was always the message that the other political party is incompetent and evil.

    I bought lots of CDs. Still have them. I was always disappointed in the quality of 80s music, especially music on the radio, but this changed once grunge came along. I’m the same generation as the musicians who created grunge, and my own musical journey in the late 80s was to move away from radio & chart friendly music and into more independent stuff. Hated hair metal with a passion, modern rock was overproduced, and I needed to hear music that was an honest expression of emotion, which is why I loved grunge so much.

  5. Born in ’72.

    School was very different. Fights were an almost daily occurrence and they were always one on one. It was bad form to need reinforcements. If you lost the fight, you gathered yourself up and walked away.

    You could throw snowballs without being expelled. In fact, the teachers might join you.

    The first time I had homework of any kind was grade five. I understand first graders get homework now.

    Teachers could still hit you, and we all knew it.

  6. I lived here in the USA without worrying that people, things, and institutions were out to actually do harm to me. Maybe some of that was rose colored glasses, but things seems a whole lot easier.

    The problem is communication… too much communication. All this instant contact stuff that we have now is not all it’s cracked up to be. Unfortunately, if you don’t buy into it to some degree, you get left behind.

  7. Smoking in the office was commonplace. The guy next to me used to smoke a pipe and I’d have to waft the smoke cloud away.

    The IT guy would hunch over my keyboard with a cigarette hanging between his lips and the ash would fall on the keyboard between the keys.

    Good times!

  8. We had these things called, “old wives tales”. People would just lie about the simplest shit and we couldn’t Google it. We just had to argue with specious phrases like, “no seriously, my dad saw it” until one of us got tired and we walked away unconvinced and unconvincing

  9. Well as a kid in the 90s I was either planted on the couch, watching TV/playing video games after school, or out until dark, with my mom having no idea where I was or when I’d be back.

    It was great.

    I had like 30 phone numbers memorized.

    We’d just walk over to our friends’ houses and see if they were home.

    I was crossing pretty busy streets on the way to said friends’ houses by myself, at 7 years old.

    There was just way more freedom for kids. I did grow up in a fairly safe suburb though.

    Everybody was a slave to the must see tv schedule. 7pm on Tuesday is Buffy time. The end.

  10. European here talking –

    by any means, life was not easier but it felt like the general way of life was easier to follow.

    Everything back then felt like it was more meaningful because it was not as easily accessible as today. Electronic devices, clothes, food, books, even music and information – the choices were narrower and everything was more expensive or at least harder to get and therefore had more personal value than today. All those hyper-fast clothing companies like Zara and H&M didnt exist and China also was not on the map yet, so you couldn’t just dump your wardrobe every few months to buy new things. Your wardrobe was smaller and also kind of..more bland.

    I believe that my childhood was also vastly different than today´´´ s. Back then, it was some kind of unspoken rule to play after school outside until it got dark and then we went home. Often, I didnt even need to ring the bell of the houses of my friends, we just knew on which common playgrounds we would meet each other. Childhood just felt more like an adventure and less of that mindless game-playing tablet thingy like today. We constantly had bruises from playing but it didnt feel like a big thing – we just had our bruises disinfected and got some band-aids and that was it. Since less children play outside today and spend more time at home, I feel like parents freak out faster when children hurt themselves from playing.

    People also were less distracted by their surrounding. There were next to no electronic billboards, no smartphones, no permanent internet connection and it just felt like you had a higher awareness for your surroundings and made more real-life experiences. I feel like you were in general just more involved in your neighborhood than today.

    The social interaction between people was also drastically different – nowadays you can treat people much harsher than back in the days because you can always resort to your internet bubble where you can either be someone completely different than you are in reality (e.g. asshole in real-life but the cool witty guy in your gaming guild) or just find like-minded people. You didnt have that luxury back then. Unless you were already a loner for whatever reasons or belonged to a group of assholes, your immediate social circle around you kind of enforced you to “behave” and not be a dick and fit in or otherwise you would be an outsider really fucking fast because meeting new people was much harder than today.

    Also I feel like today most people are acquaintances and less friends. Back then, you had less acquaintances and more friends since communicating took more effort and therefore you didn’t have the time/resources to keep in contact with hundreds of people like today, so your social circle was smaller but more meaningful.

    Finding out new things about your city (or different) was also more exciting. Since there were no rating-apps or websites to tell you whats hyped at your location, you could find a lot more gems than today. Besides very few chains, most city centres looked vastly different with more mom and pop stores. Sometimes when travelling, I would call a person that I knew visited the place I was going to and ask for recommendations! When I travel nowadays, I feel like most cities lost their gems to the crowds of tourists who just mindlessly want to do all the top 10 things that tripadvisor or instagram tells them to. And since cameras were much more expensive back then and nobody had a phone yet, sightseeing felt way different than today. Yes, there were also crowds at the Louvre, but they were interacting with each other or just looking at the beauty of the place instead of taking turns of taking pictures and then leaving.

    Life in general was just easier to navigate. Nowadays you are overloaded with information and the world seems…harsher and more chaotic. There is no real right or wrong anymore, because literally anything can be questioned and refuted, no matter how unreliable your source is.

    Obviously this sounds like romanticizing life back then, there were also a lot of bad things.
    More crime, more sexism, more racism, smoking was the norm everywhere, health care was not as advanced as today so you had less treatment options, less diversity in choices and in general cultures were more conservative and homogeneous. But I would choose life back then in a heart-beat over todays life.

  11. It’s varies, I grew up in the country and it was a blast, my cousin’s grew up in the city and were super sheltered and were always bored when they came out here. My siblings were gone every day after chores and wouldn’t be home unless we got hungry, it was great

  12. 80’s-A simpler life, with flashy funky styles of dress. A booming economy for a period of time. The feel of fast rising tech was beginning. Weather and seasons were DEFINITELY different from now. Here in the NE Winters every year were tough. Big snowstorms regularly, freezing temps and dark skies for days. This is striking to me in the current times. The 50 degree + days were never a thing. The AIDS and Crack crisis was present, and caused a lot of fear. Also…On a lighter note MTV played music videos. All day all night. She blinded me with science also. ; )

    90’s A shift in styles and we had the internet introduced. I remember laserdiscs and CD’s becoming the new form of having digital entertainment. AOL online arrived. That was the beginning of social online interaction taking away from more personal face to face meeting people. The WTC in NYC had iits first terrorist attack also, and the fear of more regular terrorist takes took hold. And it came to pass sadly.

    Interesting times to have lived. Im 46 and still think about how much the world has changed.

  13. Well, for the early 80’s, you were dealing with a major recession, so lots of people were losing homes, etc.

    You know how climate change is such a scary thing for people today? For us, it was acid rain and nukes. PEople forget just how tense things could get when NATO and the Warsaw Pact were facing off. Things were scary.

    In a lot of ways, it was also a bit boring in the 80’s. Much less entertainment media available, longer delays in hearing about things, video games were fun, but mighty primative to what we have today.

    The 90’s were awesome, honestly. When the USSR collapsed, it was like a weight lifted from everything. Grunge may not have been cheerful, but it was fresh, and BritPop was super fun.

    The 90’s were GenX’s 60’s, really. body piercings, tattoos, fashion? nobody cared . We were all connected just enough, not too much.

  14. I was stoned pretty much that entire time period. What I recall about the eighties. You’re pants rode high, like bellybutton high. All hair styles require multiple styling products. You basically were going for height. Start with aerosol mousse, then gel followed with a coating of hair spray that hardens your hair almost to the point of being a helmet. Top 40 radio sucked. Ballad rock and worse “soft rock”. Punk and new wave music were both annoying and entertaining. I recall the ladies wearing a lot of shoulder pads. I never really understood that look. Tipper Gore, Al Gore’s wife made a stink about explicit music lyrics and got ratings slapped on your record labels. Yes vinyl. The only other medium for music was cassette tapes which sucked when you wanted to find a specific song. Elvis died. Jonestown massacre. My Saint Helens eruption. Iran hostages. Live aid. I remember seeing MTV the first time when I was around 15 in 1982 or 83. Didn’t have cable. Friday night videos was the only option. Bad TV – Dallas, Dukes of Hazzard, Love boat and Fantasy Island. Damn it’s like having a flashback.

  15. The 80’s? .. Shopping malls had movie theaters in them, pizza hut had video game tables, Hulk Hogan was the wrestling champ, Mile Tyson was the Boxing King, Saturday morning cartoons were lit, toy stores were dope af, hip hop music was finally established & the presidents were unpredictable, ..

    the 90’s? Mile Tyson gets knocked out, hip hop music went gangster, the Rodney King riots took place, Stone Cold Steve Austin is the wrestling champ, BoyzNTheHood hits the movie theatre’s, President Clinton gets caught up, DeathRow Records terrorized the music industry, 2Pac dies, Notorious B.I.G dies, Kurt Cobain committed suicide, Snoop Dogg’s first record was the hottest in the streets & Cable TV was lit with the TGIFriday shows ..

    I guess what im saying is life was great & at times crazy af back then but it sure beats this online, covid infected, mask wearing, netflix n chill, smartphone nightmare of a life were living now ..

  16. Up until 1992, it seemed like Republicans and Democrats trusted each other. That changed with the election of Bill Clinton, with Rush Limbaugh leading the charge in building alternate realities and demonizing Democrats just for not agreeing with Republicans. The militia movement started up during Clinton’s first term, and the shortwave bands and BBSes(look it up) were filled with people saying Clinton was going to take American’s guns. But people like that were very much the fringe, and no one really paid any attention to them. Everyone thought the 21st century was going to be great because the USSR had collapsed, and now everyone was going to be a democracy and we’d all hold hands and sing songs. Yeah, we had no idea what was coming down the pike.

  17. I turned 14 in 2000, so not an adult.

    Network TV was mostly terrible.

    Response time was slower. It was OK to get a voicemail and call back the next day.

    Long distance calling plans were a big deal and long distance calls were potentially very expensive.

    Meeting a significant other on the internet was weird and desperate.

  18. For kids at least I think it was way easier. Nobody really was aware of any fashion or status things so you could look like a total dweeb and still be treated with decency.

    Now kids get bullied for not having the latest iphone or some shit like that. Back then you might have gotten a few friendly stabs for having shitty brand sneakers but that’s about it.

  19. you can process gathered information properly.

    no TMI (too much information)

    nowadays, because of TMI, nothing is processed properly. alot of information is for the clicks(bait).

    80s is the golden era. modernization is too fast-moving.

  20. Growing up in a small town and going to a smallish high school meant everyone pretty much knew everyone. Friday nights were football games, field parties, or cruising the mall. Gossip was spread through notes and phone calls; beefs were settled by dirty looks in the hallway or fights after school. It was exciting to go to the mall in bigger cities and you proudly wore your new clothes knowing that only a few other people might have the same outfit. Renting videos and having Dominos deliver was a treat and eating fast food was saved for road trips or when you hung out with friends. Teachers wore business clothes and you used encyclopedias to do basic research.

    It wasn’t perfect by any means though, but as a person who graduated in 88, it was so much simpler than it is today.

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