Back to the Future: Millennials and Early Onset Nostalgia

I was born in 1991, which gives me the pleasure of calling myself a ’90s kid.’ A typical day in my childhood consisted of many things that I still find myself reminiscing about today. I would wake up and eat a big bowl of Waffle Crisp for breakfast while watching Rugrats. I would then get on the school bus and show off my latest Hit Clips to my friends. A typical day’s lunch would be a perfectly balanced meal of a pb&j sandwich, Dunk-a-Roos, an orange, Bugles, and a Yoohoo. Once I got home I would do my homework and eat some bagel bites with Doug playing on television in the background. While I waited for dinner, I would sit in my room while simultaneously writing in my Password Journal and trying to take care of my Furby and Tamagotchi.

Until recently, when most people thought about nostalgia, they would imagine older people sharing stories about how different it was back in the “good old days.” Something that myself and many others began to notice is that millennials in particular, also talk about these times quite often, referencing the late 90s through the early 2000s when the majority of them grew up. I began to wonder why the millennial generation (myself included) have such an obsession and fascination with our recent past, especially so early on in their lives? 

Many different industries from fashion to technology have recently been using nostalgia as a marketing strategy to allure customers; and it’s working. Old school technology has had a recent rise in popularity thanks to millennial consumers. I have recently been seeing some posts about a product called a Pop Phone by Native Union. If you’ve been missing the feeling of a retro telephone in your hand, this one has the look and size of an old school telephone and can be plugged into your smartphone. Polaroid cameras have been relaunched after being discontinued for nine years. Vinyl records and the old school Super Nintendo entertainment systems have also both managed to make recent comebacks. 

Why would one go to all of the trouble of purchasing a record player and dozens of different records when they can simply download any song they can ever think of online? Why would one want to purchase a considerably large old fashioned camera and ridiculously expensive film when you can take photos in so many more efficient ways? Why would you want to play old games you have been playing your entire life when you can play new ones you haven’t yet experienced? Some would argue nostalgia.

I decided to ask my grandmother if she remembered young adults being nostalgic about their childhood or anything else related to the time period that they grew up in, she shook her head no.

“We lived in the moment” she said, “we were more focused on the future than the past.”

She went on to tell me that she personally didn’t remember having any types of nostalgic feelings until she was at least forty or fifty years old. Upon questioning my parents as well I found that they agreed with my grandmother in feeling that it was practically unheard of for young adults of their times to exhibit the type of extreme nostalgia that the majority of millennials will likely experience. But why? Are millennials simply overly sad adults who dwell on our childhoods or did we experience something different than other generations that causes us to almost subconsciously glorify all things that reminds of the past?

In the world we live in today, most of us are conditioned to not be able to imagine a life without the technology that we have available to us at any given moment. I however, can imagine it, because it was my childhood. Over the past twenty years, the technological advances have been fast pace and completely life changing. When I was born in the early 90s, the rise in technological advances were just beginning with the invention of the Internet. Cell phones did not exist, and while computers did, they were still far too expensive for the average family to be able to own.

Millennials are so affected by nostalgia because the world we live in today is so drastically different from the world we came into. Growing up, I remember the world as a much simpler place. My children will grow up with the blessing or curse (you decide) of being ‘always connected’. They probably won’t watch cartoons religiously, make mix CDs, or have any clue what Blockbuster was. 

Millennials are the last generation that are able to vividly remember what it was like to live in a world that did not revolve around technology. I cannot think of another generation aside from ours that has seen so many technological advancements in such a rapid timespan, and while I can only speak for myself, I honestly believe this heavily contributes to millennials suffering from what has come to be known as early onset nostalgia. No matter the reason, as a true nineties kid, I will continue to shamelessly obsess over all things that remind me of these glorious times.