We’ve all heard our parents talk fondly about the “good ol’ days,” where summers consisted of playing outside til dinnertime and evenings were spent pouring through the pages of a good book instead of scrolling through the pages of Tumblr. Pretty soon, my generation, the millennial generation, will be telling these stories to future generations, but with a heavier level of nostalgia. I notice that when it comes to growing up, millennials are more resistant to the idea of becoming “adults,” and we often recoil into the comfort of memories from the 1980’s or 1990’s – our “good ol’ days.” But why is it that the millennial generation seems to be the only generation to be overly nostalgic?
As I’ve said, members of generations before us are rich with tales from the “good ol’ days,” remembering them fondly, sharing them widely with the succeeding generations. The millennial generation will, too, be telling similar stories of roller skating in the park and their favorite books as a child. The only difference is that while those of older generations tell these stories simply for the sake of remembering, members of my generation tell these stories with a heavy heart, yearning to turn back the clock and relive these simpler times. So why is it that millennials cry tears of nostalgia before shrinking into an existential crisis at the thought of leaving it all behind?
The millennial generation, also dubbed the “Peter Pan Generation,” is the last generation that lived during a time when technology wasn’t such a vital part of society. Millennials will be the only generation who can remember a time without the internet (or at least wireless internet, for those born after the mid 1990’s), portable mp3 players, and all things digital. We can still remember spending summers flying kites, reading actual books, and using encyclopedias. It’s true that the generations before the millennial generation were fond of these also – so why are 80’s and 90’s babies the only ones overly nostalgic about these things?
The 1980’s and the 1990’s were a pivotal time for technology, from the inception of MTV to the development of smart phones and tablets. Children who grew up in the 1980’s and the 1990’s spent their most pivotal years on the cusp of an age without technology and an age with technology. We were the first to be exposed to these things while still at an age young enough to be impressionable by the slightest things, and receptive enough to understand how certain things work. Not only did we live in a time where both playing outside and playing online games were both default activities on any given day, but we also witnessed firsthand the incredibly fast paced development of technology. In some ways, the reason why members of the millennial generation are so sentimental about childhood is that the simplicity of life before the emergence of technology disappeared so quickly while still growing up.
I, too, find myself missing the days spent playing at the park down the street, or picnicking at Calaveras Big Tree Park with my parents and sister. But I also remember the day my parents installed dial-up internet for the first time at our house, and then wondering why all of the cooler kids had AOL while we were stuck with CompuServe. After that, everything else snowballed, from buying my first movie on DVD to getting my first iPod (are those still a thing?). Nothing would make me happier than to relive some of those simple afternoons rollerblading down the block or the exciting moments of uploading new music onto my iPod for the first time. It is kind of strange knowing that someday, books might become as obsolete as VHS tapes and kids won’t be familiar with any piece of technology that isn’t touch screen. While myself and my millennial peers continue to ache for an opportunity to relive our childhood, there’s still comfort in knowing that we were fortunate enough to live in both a simpler time while also being witness to the revolutionary advances in technology.