Ask a Millennial about the 90s and their face lights up.
If you look very closely, you can see the memories flashing in their eyes: the evenings browsing Blockbuster, the school discos that always ended with the Macarena, the Pokémon cards, the snap bracelets, the Gameboys and game-shows with endless buckets of slime. The days where multiplayer games on a PC meant literally sharing a keyboard.
If you’re feeling nostalgic, I don’t blame you.
There’s something comforting about the past. It’s why those throwback nights always attract a big crowd. It’s why Disney remakes are an instant box-office success. It’s why you click on links for listicles about Things You’ll Only Remember If You Were a 90s Kid and the reason why you feel a bittersweet pang when you hear the hits that topped the charts when you were growing up.
If the 2010s can be characterised by one trend, it’s nostalgia.
We subscribe to Spotify and still spend our money on Vinyl. We have high quality cameras built into our smartphones and we still buy polaroid cameras.
It’s simple: we ache for a time before the world was transformed by technology. Of course, change is inevitable, but the digital transformation we have experienced in our (relatively) short time on this earth is unprecedented.
When we were young, the playground was the place to be; we were raised on skip-ropes, swings and skateboards and while television was a staple in our diet, consuming media was something we did at set times in the day – not every minute of our lives.
While the turn of the millennium didn’t cause planes to fall out of the sky, the pace at which technology advanced in our lifetimes places us in a unique position. Having evolved alongside us, the internet was clunky and awkward when we were having our embarrassing school photos taken. As we matured, it grew up to become the backbone of culture it is today. Meanwhile, our lives went from note-passing in class, video rentals and kodak cameras to WhatsApp, Netflix and Instagram and it flashed before our very eyes.
Experiencing such rapid technological advancement during our formative years was transformational, yet to marvel at familiar gadgets that are now obsolete sparks a nostalgia for a seemingly “simpler” time because the pace of change makes it feel like it was longer ago than it really was. By the way, if you’re in your late 20s and feel at least a decade older, this is partly why.
Blessed with a ubiquitous and endless stream of entertainment at our fingertips, we became nostalgic for the life we knew before. Despite our interconnected relationship with the internet; despite the benefits we reap from a digitally-driven society we have helped to shape, we remain uncertain of which era we actually prefer.
Now, let’s just address the elephant in the room: things, more or less, have been pretty f*cking bleak since the early 2000s.
When we were young, life was sold to us as a box of chocolates . All we heard was that Things Could Only Get Better, that when we got knocked down, we would get back up again. Having been fed bright promises of prosperity, we grew up to have our hopes dashed by the housing bubble burst and the global financial crash.
Perhaps Chuck Palahniuk put it best in his seminal novel, Fight Club:
“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”
For the first time since the great depression, young people will be worse off than their parents. That alone is enough to spark a craze of nostalgia – but there’s more. Recent studies suggest a third of millennials will have a lifetime of renting with less space, poorer conditions, longer commutes and more insecurity than the baby boomers experienced.
Maybe when we can afford to buy a house at a reasonable price in the current market, we’ll stop daydreaming about the halcyon days of the 90s where a candy bar cost 50 cents. Until then – if you don’t mind – I’ve got a date with a blow-up chair, a bag of 3D Doritos and a Friends marathon.