Old-fashioned dating behaviors we (sort of) miss

Never gonna fall for modern love. OK, we are. But every now and then, we long for the quaint ways we used to date before Google and smartphones.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, and generational studies Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
3 min read

Before answering machines, you could always delude yourself into thinking that much-awaited call came during those two minutes you stepped out to get the mail.


This is part of CNET's "It's Complicated" series about the role technology plays in our relationships.

These days, you can see your crush's face in real time on the other side of the globe via FaceTime. You can flick through thousands of photos to pick your next date on Tinder. And you can google photos of that guy your roommate wants to set you up with -- and in some cases, search databases to see if he has DUIs or parking tickets.

Yet for all the new dating behavior modern technology has made possible, there are others it has killed off and sent to dating heaven. Here, we get nostalgic about six of them.

Calling and hanging up

Back in the day, shy Romeos and Juliets could call the objects of their affection just to hear their voices -- or the voices on their answering machines -- for one glorious moment. Now, the sneaky Missed Calls function gives you away. Plus, you always risk the chance your crush will wonder why the heck you're not texting or (gasp) actually answering.

Sweet, sweet self-denial

The reverse curse of the Missed Calls function: It completely ruins that hopeful state of denial. Before answering machines, we'd stay home in hopes a certain person would call (think Dorothy Parker's timeless " A Telephone Call.") If we ducked out for as few as five minutes, we could console ourselves with the self-delusion our crush called during that one unreachable scrap of time. That probably happened. No, it definitely did. Really.

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

Back in the day, you generally had to spend time personally interacting with someone to stumble upon the fact they had memorized "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" or seen David Bowie in concert five times. Now, you can stalk your crush on Facebook to discover all those endearing little details. That may backfire, though, if you accidentally like one of their photos from three years ago.

Kodachrome, give us those nice bright colors

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Photo albums made of cardboard and paper -- remember those?

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

It's great we all have camera phones in our pockets all the time, but let's take a minute to mourn the old-fashioned photo process. Snapping dances or date pics; waiting to finish up a roll and eagerly anticipating seeing the developed pictures; carefully arranging them in an actual, paper album, no filter, no Photoshop.

Today, taking and sharing pictures is quick and easy, but there's something undeniably special about those faded paper photographs and meticulously assembled albums with scribbled handwritten notes on the back of each picture. Will anyone in 2100 sit and carefully click through grandma's online wedding photos? Doubt it.

Music hath charms

Back in the day, everybody was a DJ, and there was a special art to designing just the right cassette mix tape for a sweetheart. The songs, their order, the doodles on the paper label -- they all meant something only the two of you understood (there's plenty of Prince, because I WOULD DIE 4 U). Sure, you can make Spotify playlists or CD mixes (for those of us who still have CDs). But they'll never carry that gawky charm of hearing the last few seconds of a DJ blabbing right up to the beginning of the song you were taping off the radio.

Blissful forgetting

"Thank God I made all my youthful mistakes before the internet was here to forever remind me of them," says a meme that occasionally shows up on Facebook. It's funny because it's true.


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That horrible breakup in 1986, where it turned out he'd been cheating with your best friend the whole time -- it's just a sore spot somewhere in your memory now. But had that same breakup happened in 2016, it might live on forever in stupid Facebook posts, huggy Instagram images and undeleted tweets or Vines.

Even if you were able to delete all of the digital evidence, hundreds of your friends, co-workers and second-cousins-twice-removed have already shared in the good, the bad and the ugly of your relationship.

So raise a toast to the life we lived before it was documented. And remember, it's OK to keep your personal life personal, no matter what everyone else does.

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