‘Just say no’ to nostalgia

Hindsight may be 20/20, but romanticizing the past holds us back.

JeffMcfarlandOne common trope that appears when a generation reaches an age of relative adult hood is the worship of the way things “used to be.” Anyone with children can attest to this, as can any college or high school student. The generation just beneath you has no clue, right? That noise they listen to isn’t music, man! They just don’t make food and drinks like they used to, everything’s over-processed. And what’s this garbage on TV, lately? Can you believe they don’t know who our obscure one-hit wonders and pop culture icons are? Man, if they had been born in our generation, they would never have cut it.

If I had a week, I couldn’t explain all the reasons why this mindset needs to die.

Imagine for a moment that your leg was just mangled in some horrible accident. Would you prefer access to medicine from the 1980’s or modern medicine? What about the research paper you’re putting off? Would you rather have to huff it from library to library and painstakingly hunt books down, or be able to have a wealth of peer-reviewed articles at your fingertips? We can blame technology all we want for the downfall of society, but technology is a tool, and we are to blame for how it’s used. It is a poor craftsman who blames his tools, and besides, didn’t ignoring societal progress in favor of how things used to be cause the Dark Ages?

Nostalgia is a dangerous lens to look through. It allows us to focus completely on the best parts of what “used to be,” while managing to completely eclipse any of the bad. The problem is, memory is fickle. When people complain about

Illustration by Spike Jordan

Illustration by Spike Jordan

society being glued to their smart phones, not only is it usually over social media (because irony is just lost on some), but they’re intentionally overlooking that certain characteristics have always been present in society.

Before smart phones, people used newspapers, books, or whatever version of portable music player at the time to shut the world out. Ignoring the people around you is not a new behavior, as any true anti-socialite will tell you. People are attached to their phones because they’re afraid to be alone with their thoughts for longer than a second, but don’t know how to talk to real people. They need validation, they need connection, and they need it now. The feeling of isolation isn’t new. Technology is simply being used as a new Band-Aid for an age old wound.

To worship how things once were is to impede any chance we have of progressing as a society. People often hold this idyllic image of the past 100 years in their heads, like the turn of the last century was the ushering in of some blight on our country. Do you really think our peak as a culture was during a time where people with a different skin pigment had to fight to drink from the same fountain as a lighter person? Are you really longing for a time where the highest spot in a career for a woman was a secretary? I’m sure the Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq Wars are all conveniently left out of these delusion-induced paradises. I hate to break it to everyone, but Grunge music and 90’s cartoons were not God’s gift to the world, and America was not founded as a Christian nation.

Challenge your nostalgia: go back and listen to old music, play your old video games, watch old movies, and see what you think with a different perspective. Quit blaming technology with an infinite capability of bringing us together for your own shortcomings. Rather than obsessing over some make-believe golden age from the past or worshiping the far-off innovations promised us by Kickstarter campaigns, we could try something really novel like living our lives as they come to us.

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