Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Why are young people so damn nostalgic nowadays?

In 2006 the American R&B singer Mario released a song entitled Let Me Love You. It was a major chart hit around the globe, topping the charts in seven countries. As I was an impressionable and naive 13 year old, who had not yet discovered The Beatles, Van Morrison, Indie Rock or Motown when it was released, I was rather enamoured by it. So this week I decided to scour Youtube for it and give an ol’ listen for, y’know, old time’s sake.

It’s not a fantastic song. Its melody is quite enchanting but thematically and lyrically it leaves a lot to be desired. Though that was not what bothered me when I listened to it. The highest rated comment on the video, as voted for by Youtube users, was what did it. It was the seemingly innocuous comment; “Back when music was good”.

This perturbed me. It really did. The implication that in the last 7 years music has gone belly-up and lost its way, that back in the mid-noughties the charts was only the preserve of “good music” and that now it is only the preserve of substandard bile  irritated me (It is the preserve of substandard bile now but it was too back in the 00s).

This is not an anomalous occurrence on the internet or indeed in real life. This unabridged and frankly uninformed nostalgia has long been pervasive. It sickens me. The assumption that somehow the world was a better, more moralistic and more cultured place in the past is not only untrue but morbidly stupid.
It is most commonly associated with older people. You hear it from your grandparents when they’re discussing the youth of today – They begin their sentence with the classic dictum “Back in my day” or the equally hackneyed “When I was a youngster” and then launch into a sanctimonious tirade about how people today have no manners or no respect.

It’s worth pointing out that our grandparents are part of a generation that started and finished two world wars. If it’s a choice between poor manners or world wars, I’m afraid I’m going to have to go with the poor manners.
But there is a new trend now. It has its roots, perhaps unsurprisingly, on the internet and it’s just as pervasive and just as annoying as ordinary nostalgia – it’s nostalgia perpetuated by young people. Yep, you heard me. People in their teens are now as nostalgic as people in the twilight of their lives.
There are a myriad of examples to back this up but I shall provide you with the most prominent and, coincidentally, the most annoying example of what I like to call “Youthful nostalgia”. It is the 90s kids craze.

Ah, the 90s kids craze. I’m sure some of you are at a loss. Some of you may not be familiar with it. Let me explain. It’s a movement on the internet which celebrates the popular culture and fads of the 1990s. It celebrates things like 90s TV shows, 90s music and 90s fads such as Tamagotchis and Furbies - and berates everything “modern” as if the 90s were the time of Wordsworth and Keats.  

What makes it so mind-numbingly stupid is that most of its patrons are in their teens – i.e they were only born in the 90s. They spent their formative years in the 00s. Like me. I am apparently a 90s kid. I was six when the 90s ended. Six. I was but an overgrown foetus. And there are younger people than I who celebrate the 90s as if the entire decade was some sort of eternal and perpetual utopia.
So why is this? Why do kids today insist that the current generation is nowt but a bunch of uncultured chimps and try to claim membership of a generation that was only a fleeting part of their lives?

 Maybe it’s thanks to our parents and the media. You know the way that the Pre-9/11 world is held up to be some everlasting bastion of endless peace? Or maybe every generation since the 60s habitually hates itself and longs to claim membership of every preceding decade? Tis debatable.

While it’s always fun to look back on past generations and enjoy their music and popular culture we could do well to remember what makes our generation very special indeed. We’re the first totally digital and interactive generation.  We’re revolutionaries in every little thing we do online.

I’m not saying we’re perfect. And I’m not saying we’re necessarily better than any other previous generation. What I am saying is neither are preceding generations without their faults. They weren’t paragons of virtue like some like to claim.

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