Borat. Silly Bandz. The Transformers movies. Guitar Hero. The explosion of Brony culture. Gangnam Style. Harlem Shake videos. Flappy Bird. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or if the world works differently now, but I’ve noticed that trends come more frequently and leave less of an impact upon dying out. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that’s because “things were better and more memorable in the past than they are today,” but I would like to explore the idea of why we seem to remember things from 10+ years ago with more fondness.
One of the more obvious answers is because people typically tend to remember the stuff they grew up with before becoming adults. Time seems to pass differently for kids. I remember every year from elementary school through high school seemed like it lasted much, much longer. And naturally, the movies, TV shows, books, video games, and all of our experiences in general are going to seem like a bigger deal. When time gives the illusion of passing slowly, the things we do and experience during that time will usually leave a bigger impact.
Take Pokemon, for example. Any person that grew up in the 90’s probably has a lot of memories associated with Pokemon. I’m no exception. Some of my strongest childhood memories involve Pokemon. And there’s a lot of them. Watching the TV show before going to school, playing the Game Boy games almost every day, reorganizing my trading cards, playing with the toys, drawing them in notebooks, trying to make up my own Pokemon, playing the spin-off games (Pokemon Snap, Stadium, Puzzle League, even the board game and Monopoly version); the list goes on. I always viewed my time with Pokemon as the essential influence on my childhood. After all, it seemed to always be there back then. Strange how it was actually only for two years.
Eventually we got to a point where we embarked on a journey to discover who we are. It’s on that journey when we discovered those songs, movies, and other forms of media that spoke to us as something more than mere entertainment. A simple lyric or line could sync up with where we were in life. We felt connected to whatever said that thing we’d struggled to express ourselves. That’s why we tend to remember those influences more positively, even years later when we revisit them and they seem overrated, juvenile, or dated. We don’t forget what they’ve done for us, how we’ve remembered them so positively for years. That’s why we can overlook some of the more embarrassing qualities that would normally make us leave those influences behind as we move on.
But even so, what’s to stop us from being influenced now, after we’ve grown up? Well, it’s not impossible. Most of us 20-somethings are probably still looking for our place in the world. But we usually have a clearer concept of who we are, what we want, and where we want to be. It’s harder to find that special connection with different things because we no longer have vague concepts of who we are; we have more specific questions about ourselves that we need answers to. We’ve gotten more life experience, and it’s harder to find things that match our own ideas.
Of course, growing up aside, there’s also the issue of how information is presented today. I’m sure you’ve all read something about it, but stuff is thrown at us much faster and more frequently than ever. Since around 2006 or 2007, it’s been becoming ridiculously easier to absorb media in greater bulk. Quite frankly, we take this for granted, and the new stuff we acquire becomes less special.
But honestly, who can blame us? We have advertisements for movies and TV shows shoved down our throats every couple of minutes. You can’t watch a single video online without seeing a trailer for something. We see so many of them that they all just blend together. We can download book after book into the palm of our hand for just a few dollars each. Songs can be purchased at any time for just a dollar. Netflix and Hulu let us binge watch TV shows entire seasons at a time; remember when we had to actually get a physical copy of a box set for that to happen?
I don’t want to sound like an old man that wants to go back in time, but facts are facts: the easier it is to obtain something, the less special it becomes. Same with how frequently we obtain something. I’m not saying that limiting yourself to enjoying different types of media is going to make them leave a deeper impact on your life, but part of the reason the things in the past seemed like they were more important was because it was harder to get them. Other than birthdays and holidays, how did we get stuff? We didn’t have jobs, money was extremely limited, and it’s not like we could have gone shopping whenever we wanted. We were, more or less, at the mercy of another force, like our parents’ generosity. We had to make do with what we had, and as a result we appreciated it. And when something new came into our lives, we appreciated that, too.
Anyway, this was just some food for thought. What do you think?