I was 22 when I found out it was addictive. That giddy feeling you get seeing or hearing something from a not so distant past, something you thought you’d long forgotten. The one you get seeing a game of Space Impact, a brightly coloured Tamagotchi, or worn-out Pokemon Tazos. Your heart swells up, and right then and there you’re emotionally teleported to a place that no longer exists. Heck, you might even notice goosebumps and your eyes may water. Because all of a sudden you’re seven again, eating a peanut butter sandwich on white bread(not giving a damn about carbs), all while washing it down with an orange flavoured drink.
Life is good. But, as quickly as that feeling came, it leaves again. And you’re OK with that because you know before the day is gone, you’ll run into yet another reminder of how much simpler life was before the job, the taxes, countless situationships, or having to make grown-up decisions with very little practice.
I remember the exact moment I felt the feeling for the first time too. I was at my first real office job, and a colleague-turned-friend had just downloaded Pokemon Go.
“It’s this cool new Pokemon game where you have to go around the city catching Pokemon!” he said, enthused.
I hadn’t seen it yet, but I knew the very first person I had to tell was my big brother. Because you see, much like every other millennial on the face of this planet, the two of us grew up on Pokemon. Ash, Brock, Misty and nurse joy, they were our unsung heroes!
It’s safe to say we were addicted.
As soon as my colleague-turned-friend mentioned it, I was back home. I was safe. I had no bills to pay, and our biggest battle was fighting our sister for viewing time because Pokemon also clashed with Sunset Beach(Hahaha, remember that?).
That feeling I mentioned earlier? That’s nostalgia!
If there’s one thing millennials have in common (apart from not being able to afford our own homes, doing away with the middle child, and opting or fur and plant babies instead of the real thing), it’s that we love nostalgia!
So, why are we this addicted to throwbacks?
Why are we the first at the cinema when Disney releases action remakes? Why do we keep finding flip phones and CD covers to bond over while
routinely uploading photographs of 90s video rental stores on Throwback Thursdays or Flashback Fridays? Why are we always trying to do the impossible, and bring back lost time?
Much like anything I find fascinating, I followed this white rabbit down the rabbit hole. I found there were tonnes of reviews on this topic too(some negative, most of them positive). The New York Times has written about nostalgia, at least half a dozen times – and that’s just this year alone, with titles ranging from “Why We Reach for Nostalgia in Times of Crisis”, to “The Comfort of Childhood Media During Lockdown”.They write about this peculiar fascination with bottling the past and taking giant swigs of it too, with social historians often warning against the dangers of relying on made memories. One such historian, Stephanie Koontz, mentions this;
“There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the good things in our past,” she warns though, that not everything we remember is exactly as it was.
But memories, like witnesses, do not always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We need to cross-examine them, recognizing and accepting the inconsistencies and gaps in those that make us proud and happy as well as those that cause us pain”
There’s no denying that the 20teens have been a decade charged with surprising twists, turns and looming events. Be they political, physiological or otherwise, we’ve all been affected by the ever-changing nature of the world in one way or another. From the very evident climate change to the now pending world wars, from leaders making incompetent decisions that affect millions, mother nature ravaging forests with her rath, and now? A worldwide pandemic. It’s fair to assume, we’ve all seen our fair share of traumas. And as any psychology minor or Freudian enthusiast will tell you, we all have our unique ways of dealing with these, some (as this article would suggest – some –who also happen to be me ) resort to getting lost in a whirlwind of nostalgia.
Clinical psychologist, Dr Stoycheva was quoted in one New York Times article as saying that “Trauma takes away our grey areas. It divides our timeline into a before and an after,
“and while it has the danger of creating this longing for the before, when things were maybe safer, and when we were unaware of all of this and protected by our naïveté, there’s also something about nostalgic behaviours — fashion, clothes, movies, music — that serve as a transitional object.”
The Dr suggests that perhaps we’re the “lost boys” generation, constantly scouring through Buzzfeed listicles to find the 8 things we miss most about the 90s because we seek to escape the trauma, looking towards resolve.
Unfortunately, or us, marketers know this, and marketers are smart, which is why pretty much everything we know that’s mainstream stems out of a nostalgic place.
Roller Skates and 90s tracks, Trench leather jackets and slim shades we wore when we were 5. Bandanas, Stranger Things, Bluetooth speakers shaped like boom boxes and record players. Not to mention digital time loops from hashtags to memories, that will send you on a whirlwind of remembrance triggering a shared identity.
We may all have grown up in different homes, but when I mention how long it took to burn a CD or the art of going to the library to borrow books, you almost instantly remember your experience, it’s a form of escapism.
What if the aliens in The Arrivals were right? Time isn’t linear. I mean how can it be? When seeing an old photograph, or hearing the Nickelback song can take you right back to that moment you took it, or last heard it.
After reading all of these article’s I still can’t tell you why we do what we do, or why we’re collectively addicted to familiarity. Could it be because our memories are the only things we can control?
I have no idea. I never took psych.