Is Generation Y Particulary Nostalgic, or Just Human?

Photo from imissmytvshow.com

Photo from imissmytvshow.com

I was pretty stressed in the few months before I left Seattle. I was deciding if and where I should go to graduate school and trying to summon the strength to leave my great job and one-of-a-kind friends in the Emerald City. During this time, I developed an unlike-me habit of watching an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark every night before falling asleep. Perhaps watching comfort television is in the same habit-family as eating comfort food? I’m not sure…but the tales of the Midnight Society certainly made me feel better.

Recent reports about the onset of Generation Y members seeking comfort through nostalgia got me thinking about my Retro TV coping mechanism. Is it really that rare for 20-somethings to look back?  The Beatles felt nostalgic about Yesterday, so why is it absurd for a 20-something to feel nostalgic about the last decade? Moreover, is Generation Y really a particularly nostalgic generation? Would members of Generation X never think to cope with Growing Pains by watching re-runs of The Brady Bunch? Perhaps we just seem nostalgic because we’re social communicators and can easily access aspects of our childhood via the web, which would have been much harder if not entirely impossible for earlier generations.

And if Generation Y does seek comfort in nostalgia, what’s the harm? Nostalgia is proven to increase a person’s psychological health. Maybe all that nostalgia we’ve allegedly been practicing as a generation is fueling our general optimism during this rough economic climate. Nostalgia also counteracts the effects of loneliness and boosts perceptions of social support, both important things for members of Gen Y.

Still, I’m not convinced that 20-somethings are beating out older generations with the classic, “back in my day…” line.

This article by the New York Times states:

Even though nostalgia hits every generation, it seems awfully early for 28-year-olds to be looking back. One possible explanation, say authors who focus on generational identity, is the impact of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The political and economic climate of the late ’90s had been as soothing as a Backstreet Boys ballad: no wars, unemployment as low as 4 percent, a $120 billion federal surplus.”

Gen Y is nostalgic for the good ‘ole days because they really were the good ole’ days, and we suddenly find things getting much more difficult for us, resulting in reflection on a better time. This makes sense. But check out this study reported by Science Daily. It’s actually been found that if an event begins poorly and gets better, you’ll have a more positive memory than if it starts out good and gets worse. In this light, might we find that a 20 something today is just as nostalgic as a 20 something from an earlier generation, if not less nostalgic?

Though Gen Y doesn’t exactly have a cake walk nowadays, the previous generations have lived through their own equal if not much worse bouts of war, disasters, and work insecurities. Also, many of my peers (myself included) weren’t in the full-time workplace at all during 9/11 or when the unemployment rate dropped to 4%, so it’s difficult for us to be nostalgic for that time, from an adult and economic perspective.

Perhaps it’s not the wish for a national environment without war, threats of terrorism and unemployment that is driving members of Gen Y to think so fondly of the past. Perhaps it’s just the simplicity of childhood.

I think that what other generations perceive to be more-rampant-than-usual nostalgia is just a highly communicative and technology-enabled generation growing up. Were previous generations so unaware of their own growth that they never looked behind them to remember where they’d been before transitioning into/within the full-time working world? I doubt it. Perhaps the spotlight is just on a vocal and social generation Y right now.

Posted on by colleendilen in Generation Y 1 Comment

About the author

colleendilen

MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore

One Response to Is Generation Y Particulary Nostalgic, or Just Human?

  1. trender

    I don’t think that gen Y is any more nostalgic than anyone else. I’m sure if the media market had been as saturated in any other age, people would have latched on to follow up products from their youth in exactly the same way.

    That NYT piece makes a lot of dubious assumptions. Are Gen Yers really that nostalgic for life before 9/11? Are our lives really so different now? Sure there’s an economic downturn, but that isn’t because of terrorism, and as you say, the vast majority of Yers wouldn’t have been employed (other than part time minimum wage jobs) before 2001.

    More or less everyone is nostalgic for their youth, depending on personality more than anything. I think it is natural for people entering adulthood to have a certain degree of nostalgia for their recent past…. No news here.

     

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