COLUMN: Millennials aren’t old enough to be nostalgic
This generation is suffering from a new disease that rarely afflicted previous generations. It’s called early-onset nostalgia, and it must be recognized so we can start treating it.
Early-onset nostalgia is a condition where young adults are longing and yearning for things from a time not that long ago. It’s the ideal that we are quickly designating the recent past as “the good ol’ days.”
This unique, and increasingly less rare, case of nostalgia appears in waves. Most recently, we 20-somethings felt it when Nickelodeon promised a reboot of its classic shows. Scores of ’90s babies started swooning over the thought that their favorite cartoons — I crossed my fingers for Rugrats — would come back on the air.
Nickelodeon wasn’t the first to get our young blood flowing extra fast. The kids channel was falling in line with a long list of TV stations considering bringing back hits from two decades ago. There’s Boy Meets World now revisioned as Girl Meets World, Full House matured as Fuller House and possibly even a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot.
But recently I’ve realized that these #tbt shows are actually not that much of a throwback, or at least not in the sense of how a throwback should be considered.
“Initially #tbt started off as a throwback to your childhood, but now, it’s a throwback to last week,” Jamie Gutfreund, chief marketing officer at the digital agency Deep Focus, told Digiday.
I’m definitely a victim of this mentality. One look at my Instagram shows my reflection on my internship from last fall, or the football game in 2013 when we beat Stanford -— major #tbt — or even as far back as senior year of high school.
Sometimes millennials are yearning for a throwback that are not even ours to long for.
“In terms of trends, what goes around, comes around. This generation is far more in touch with previous generations’ styles and tastes and there’s elements of a greater sense of discovery,” said Professor Marlene Towns at the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in June.
The nostalgia for something that isn’t ours is evident in our taste of throwback shows. Most of my favorite childhood shows premiered; some had even gone off the air, before I was even born. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air came out in 1990. Saved by the Bell was in 1989. Rugrats was born in 1990. I made my world premiere years later in 1994.
It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with nostalgia — we assume that it comes with the territory of becoming an adult. But in the grand scheme of life, two decades is barely any time. And when we’re constantly surrounded by technology that can help us relive the past, we shouldn’t be so obsessed with idolizing it.
I’m not a doctor, so I can’t make an exact diagnosis for this early-onset nostalgia. But after consulting some experts in the field, I would say it’s our information overload.
Technology is rapidly changing our perception of the past. With social media, you can always be right there when an event breaks — and god forbid if you’re not attached to your Twitter timeline during a major event. It’s as if the whole world has consumed the news, and by the time we try to catch up we’ve already moved on.
Yet this is detrimental to our collective memory as a generation. Marketing agencies and advertisers thrive on the idea that every generation experiences events at once. That’s why it’s economically smart for Nickelodeon to revive old shows that already have a strong viewership base.
But the past can’t be the past if we keep digging it up. The recent reboot of ’90s shows is uprooting collective memory. Collective memory, which is the memory of a specific group of people passed down through the generations, comes from retelling past events — and even if they get misremembered — and they continue to take up a very fond space in our hearts.
It’s kind of like a high school yearbook. You only have a frozen-in-time image of someone when he or she was 18, and then the idea is only changed once you see that person 30 years later for the high school reunion. Yet Facebook lets you see those high school friends’ progression on a day-to-day basis.
We’ve lost our sense of what the past really is because we never let it go.
That’s why it’s not a good idea to put our favorite shows back on the air. So even though I’m excited about prospectively watching the Rugrats now that I’m all grown up, I really don’t want this trend of reboot after reboot to continue.
I want future generations to be able to continue to say, “Back in my day …” and truly have a reason to say it.
After reading “Wait An L.A. Minute” on Tuesdays, join Jordyn Holman in her millennial conversations on Twitter @JordynJournals. She’s a senior studying print and digital journalism.