Unpopular Opinion: Things were not better “back in the day”

It’s time to shut up and take off the rose-tinted glasses.
Nostalgia: Because the past is perfect when you choose to not remember the bad parts
Nostalgia: Because the past is perfect when you choose to not remember the bad parts
Cartoon by Ariel Arrieta

“Back in my day…” This is the sentence starter that we all know, and love rolling our eyes at. It’s the indicator that you’re about to hear an endless tangent about how wonderful the past was, with its lower prices and cooler cars and better values. The past is great… when you ignore all the things that sucked.

It’s time to be honest: the past is not all that older generations want to remember it as.

For example: no matter how much older generations may complain about the violence of today’s world, the rate of crimes such as murder, manslaughter and assault in America have declined 49% from 1993 to 2019 according to The Pew Research Center, Meaning that the country is technically less violent than it was over 30 years ago. 

Defined by Merriam-Webster as “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition”, nostalgia is a very strange yet powerful thing. The type of thing that can make older generations ignore racial violence, systemic sexism and war as they reminisce on how simple the world used to be before the creation of social media.

Nostalgia is a part of human nature, but it will always rely upon broad memories that nine times out of ten don’t accurately represent how messy the past really was. 

During the Recession of 2008, millions of Americans lost their jobs and homes. Unemployment hit a high that the country hadn’t experienced since the Great Depression. I was only three years old when it happened. I wasn’t capable of understanding the stress and fears my parents and other members of my community were experiencing because I was a literal toddler. But, just because I was too young to comprehend the complexities of the situation, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a difficult time.

That naivety of childhood is what’s being missed, not necessarily the past itself. The world has and will continue to be a complicated and messy place, and the ability to acknowledge it does not change a thing.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the world doesn’t change. The quick advancement of technology has greatly increased how much of the world and its suffering is shown to us on a daily basis. Not to mention the entirely different beast that is social media. The world is changing at a rate that is incredibly overwhelming for older generations. And in a few decades time, when Gen Z are no longer the “it” generation, the world will be even more different from how it currently is. 

It’s tempting to reminisce on that state of youth where everything seemed so much simpler, but it’s more accurate to think of your memories of the past as a painting rather than a camera.

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