The Sometimes Dangerous Power of Nostalgia

Written by:

Spoiler alert: Your childhood probably wasn’t as great as you remember. Even if it was, that doesn’t make it better than the childhoods that today’s kids are enjoying. Disagree with me? That’s because the power of nostalgia is a funny little thing. Nostalgia lets you look back on your past and get a warm, fuzzy feeling deep inside your heart. Sometimes it also turns you into a raging jerk.

Cool it baby boomers.

Baby boomers, you collectively remember being excellent parents 100% of the time. Your kids never had tantrums, and if they did then you quickly put an end to it. Right was right and wrong was wrong, and you never accepted so much as an ounce of disresepct in your house. Cool story.

Based on your complaints that Gen Xers and millennials can’t get their crap together and are still riding on the highs of participation trophies (which you handed out), I’m going to say those memories are hiding behind rose-tinted glasses. That is a nicer way of saying you’re full of it.

Millennials, the memes aren’t funny.

And hey, my fellow 30 somethings, you’re not immune to the power of nostalgia. Stop posting memes about how today’s kids want iPhones when all you wanted was a 64-pack of Crayons. You’re liars, the whole lot of you. You may have wanted those crayons, but you were probably drooling over the Nintendo 64, too.

From Game Boys and computer games to new clothes and personal landlines in our own bedrooms, we did a whole lot of wanting. Our generation is also literally lining up outside of Apple stores for days. I don’t see any preschoolers popping Dora the Explorer tents on the sidewalk.

Your kids would survive the 80s just fine. (You wouldn’t.)

Newsflash Karen, sharing a meme about whether your kids would survive in the 80s isn’t that funny. Why? Because girl, you wouldn’t make it in the 80s anymore. Without your smartphone? I don’t think so.

Need to get somewhere across town in the 80s, and you’ve never been there before? Bust out those cartography skills because it’s time to look at a map. Want to find a quick, healthy, keto, Whole 30, plant-based recipe for dinner tonight? Maybe try panicking in the middle of the grocery store because Pinterest isn’t there to save your butt. And no more streaming services for you. You’ll miss that episode of The Golden Girls and dangit you’ll like it.

Did you forget about the Cabbage Patch craze?

Cabbage Patch dolls hit the shelves in 1983, and everyone in America collectively lost their ever-loving minds. Parents dropped money by the fistfuls and turned department stores into cage fighting arenas just to get their hands on one of these dolls.

This Timeline article even points out that one woman almost got choked out over one of these weird dolls. It also details how kids in particular have been lusting after toys for quite a long time. The 1950s saw the toy industry hit a new high, and having “the right toys was a status symbol — for both kid and parent.”

But you still insist you just wanted a box of crayons and nothing more when you were a kid? Let me say it again: Liar, liar pants on fire.

Retailers make bank on nostalgia.

Still not convinced that the power of nostalgia is a real thing? Just look at all the retailers churning out Pokemon products and t-shirts with distressed images of our favorite 90s’ movies and bands. Spice Girls, anyone? Target is selling Caboodles and Fanny Packs are a thing again. The entire premise of Disney’s theme parks thrive on nostalgia.

And let’s not forget that Disney is churning out live-action versions of our favorite childhood movies.

Nostalgia doesn’t just make you remember things better than they were, it also gets you to fork over half your paycheck for crap you don’t even have room for.

Nostalgia makes you forget.

Why is it that we conveniently forget about the times we messed up, fell short, or broke apart entirely?

I mean, as someone living with fairly severe anxiety I can assure you that I remember every last one of these moments and lay awake thinking about them at night. My thoughts are briefly interrupted by panic that someone is breaking in, then it’s right back to reliving every awkward encounter of my life.

But some people chuck those memories right out the door and move forward with a deep-seated and unjustified sense of smugness.

The power of nostalgia can be dangerous.

Jokes aside, it’s important that we realize that power of nostalgia has a hold on all of us. Sure, there were many great things about past decades and our younger years, but there were a lot of bad things too.

As this article puts it, “We fetishize what once made us happy, dreaming that it will again fulfill those same needs.”

Ignoring the bad perpetuates a cycle in which we simultaneously desire and hate the new (like advancing technology) while also idolizing problematic pasts. The 1960s might have been a fun-filled decade for some, but the reality that minorities and marginalized groups lived through was much different.

It’s okay to fondly remember the good things in your past. We shouldn’t let go of those happy moments in our lives. But we also have to be careful when it comes to remembering entire years, decades, and generations as wholly positive.

Nostalgia wants you to think that everything before today was fine, so you need to search out and eliminate whatever is messing up your today. We should question these urges and whether nostalgia is interfering with our thinking.

So don’t let the power of nostalgia fool you into thinking that the yesteryears were romantically better than any other point in time. And while you’re at it, stop complaining about today’s kids when you’re the ones who are raising them. Not cool, guys. Not cool.

Share THis