Based on my demographics, most reading this are in probably in the 18-30 age range, and based on my casual browsing of Facebook, most of you wish you did not exist in 2016. What do I mean? I see memes pop up all the time with a picture of a picturesque representation of the 30s, 50s or 60s, always followed by the caption I wish I lived here or I was born in the wrong generation! Why? Let’s talk it out.
We can classify these yearners into a couple groups. The first group are the music defenders. The kids whose music taste start with Elvis and end with Smells Like Teen Spirit. They want the good old days. They want to experience The Beatles or Led Zeppelin the same way their parents did. These same kids revile anything modern unless it sounds like it could be old. And don’t even get them started on the perceived shittiness of pop music nowadays. This is a group I am familiar with, because I was a teenage music defender. I would roll my eyes at anything that sounded poppy or new. I assumed guitar music went extinct in the 90s. I loathed hip-hop, and would only listen to ‘funny’ hip-hop artists, because hip-hop was a joke to me. Today, at any given time, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t find me listening to anything pre-1990. I found great guitar music and hip-hop is probably my favorite genre now. You can also find me bumping T. Swift or a song like Beez In The Trap by Nicki Minaj non-ironically. But to get back to the music defenders of today, I think there’s a level of dissonance when imaging the time period. People love the music, but they don’t realize that it didn’t come out of nowhere. The Beatles started as a skiffle band, something that was popular in late 50s England. Led Zeppelin made the Blues louder. Elvis literally took the Blues and gave it a safe, Caucasian face. However these artists saw the times they were living in, and were aware of them enough to adapt and do their own thing, and you can’t really do that if you actively ignore the present.
The second group is the general group of people who wish they were born in ‘a simpler time.’ They don’t belong in this generation. They belong in the 50s, drinking malts, going to the drive-thru, and sneaking a dance with their favorite guy or gal. Or maybe they belong in the 20s, when everyone wore suits and everyone was classy. It’s easy to romanticize something when you’re only shown the good. These people ignore the fact that crime is steadily decreasing and, while we’re not perfect, we are definitely more accepting of other races and cultures now than ever, and that can only improve with each new generation. I think people who want to go to the 20s highly underestimate The Great Depression, and the people who were so impacted by it their frugality and need for saving every packet of food carried with them their entire lives. We forget the fact that women in America have only had the right to vote for less than 100 years. We forget about the draft. I think technology plays into it. With instantaneous information access at our fingertips, we lack a sense of mystery that we might have had only 50 years ago. And maybe this leads to a cell phone addiction, and we’re so dependent we can’t carry a conversation. The truth is, no matter what generation or decade smartphones popped up in, the generation with access to it would have taken full advantage of it. I would also posit that calling any decade ‘a simpler time’ is an insult to anyone that lived through them. Things seem difficult now, but we’re probably going to look back in several years and wish we could come back to the simpler time of 2016, which leads me to my last group.
The 90s Kids
The weird, obnoxious pride people born between 1990 and 1999 seem to have because they remember Hey! Arnold and peak Simpsons. The group of people who think that, if Facebook is to be believed, the 90s were great because of cartoons, obsolete toys, and Nintendo. This one is unique to me because you don’t really see anything celebrating 70s or 80s kids. The 90s kids lived in a weird technological shift, where we remember slow, Neanderthalian computers and having to use land lines to call friends, but went through adolescence and puberty, watching the internet get faster and house phones disappear. Now the 90s kids, the ones that can vividly recall the 90s, are now adults being thrust into a world of debt and mediocre job prospects, and it’s admittedly terrifying. So in defense, they cling to the 90s as a time of care-free nostalgia. But the problem is that isn’t really nostalgia, it’s just the yearning to be a child again.
Nostalgia kills. It kills productivity and our ability to progress. To trap yourself in your past is a sure way to constant disappointment. The world is going to continue on, whether you choose to jump aboard or not. Instead of wishing the world was what it used to be, why not focus energy on making it better now?
Author’s note: Anyone who agrees with this article should go to Reddit’s le wrong generation page. One of my favorite subreddits.