Woman born in 1997 wonders how anything got done before the internet and millennials, Gen X-ers are happily filling in the blanks

One woman’s innocent curiosity about life before the internet is both amusing and uniting the generations on TikTok.

“OK, this is a genuine question to older people,” comic Sarah Adelman (@sarah_adelman) asks in a recent video. “What did you do before you could look something up?”

Adelman, who said she was born in 1997, explained she has never experienced a world in which information wasn’t immediately at her fingertips. Because of this, she’s especially curious how people navigated simple, everyday scenarios, like what to do if you couldn’t remember the name of an actor and neither could any of your friends.


“Would you go to a library?” she asks in the clip.

Adelman was equally perplexed about how people got anywhere without Google Maps or some other form of automated GPS.

“I know that there was MapQuest, but before that, like, genuinely what would you do?” Adelman wonders. “Would you just accept not knowing?”

At the end of her TikTok, Adelman called upon “older” users to share their insight, adding once more that she “genuinely” doesn’t understand how people functioned back in the day.

It didn’t take long for her request to go viral, which led to plenty of comments from older millennials and Gen X-ers who still remember life before the internet ruled everything.

“the name of the actor would come up to you 3 weeks later while you were eating a bowl of cereal,” joked TikTok user @javherr.

“You would just be forever annoyed by it, keep it bookmarked in the back of your mind, then realize one day that dude’s name is ray liotta or something,” added @kiraboozie.

Others weighed in on how directions and traveling worked before everyone had Google Maps.

“Ummm. I love how you reference Mapquest,” wrote @marfinkel. “We used maps. Just maps. Good ole paper maps.”

A lot of “elders” admitted they also can’t quite believe how different the world used to be.

“This is why Gen X is still finding out about wrong lyrics we were singing for 30 years,” joked @world_hiphop.

“I legit went into record stores and sang snippets of songs I’d heard to store clerks,” shared @_noelleswan. “They were shameless times.”

Plenty of TikTokers also responded via Stitch, as Adelman requested, and most of them couldn’t help but note just how old her questions made them feel.

In fact, several users jokingly responded with a blank stare after putting their faces through an aging app to make them look decades older.

But by and large, most people are responding with genuine answers in an effort to inform and connect with the Gen-Zer. In the process, it’s getting them more than a bit nostalgic about the past.

Former contractor Tom Powell (@tompowelljr) actually showed images of the physical map books he used to keep in his truck when he traveled from job site to job site. He even zoomed in on one map to explain how to read it.

According to Dawn Marie (@the_dawn_chronicles), it also wasn’t rare to get lost when you were on your own — especially when you were just learning to drive. At the same time, having to rely on your memory to get you places had its perks, even if it wasn’t as convenient.

“It really wasn’t that hard,” she admits in one TikTok. “And I think it actually made me directionally capable. Like, I live in an RV and I travel the country and I have no problem if my GPS is out or my WiFi isn’t working and I can’t get online, I can just figure it out.”

The TikToker also got nostalgic about the days of Blockbuster Video stores — when you could jog your memory about an actor’s name by looking at the back of a VHS cover or by asking one of the store clerks, who always seemed so knowledgeable.

“I guess the answer to you is this: You just got crafty,” Marie says in response to Adelman. “The answers weren’t at your fingertips; so yes, you didn’t know random stuff.”

That said, you kind of didn’t need to, Marie admitted.

“And honestly, that was OK,” she added.

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