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    6 MIN READ

    Wrong generation

    Why are we more obsessed with past decades than the present one?

    “I’ve always felt like I was born in the wrong generation…” It’s a cliché that sits right next to “I’m not like the other girls.” But although clichés are soul-crushing for writers to both say and hear, I’m afraid that I, too, have uttered this many a time. I have always felt like I was born in the wrong generation.

    I always dress like I’ve either walked right out of a ‘90s sitcom or I’m en route to Woodstock. When I’m in charge of the tunes at a party, I never play current hits, it’s always ‘70s disco. And whenever my boyfriend and I are planning a cinema date, I’m always begging for us to see a vintage flick that’s playing again, rather than seeing a new release.

    Recently while pondering why it is that nothing from the present day is inspiring me and I’m always reaching back into past decades, it finally hit me: it’s not just the aesthetic that I’m attached to, it’s the general vibe of these time periods that I’m trying to channel by wearing vintage clothes and listening to music from a simpler time.

    I’ve always found myself riddled with nostalgia – a sort of FOMO for generations past. Because sure, being alive in 2021 comes with so many amazing aspects that previous eras did not have. We’re able to stay in touch with long-distance friends and family members through social media, whereas back in the day you had to rely on the lengthy mail process. We can now have the answer to any question at our fingertips thanks to Google, rather than having to rush to the library to scour through books. And when we’re at a bar or a music festival and we lose a mate in the crowd, we can shoot them a text with our whereabouts, rather than rolling with the ‘meet at the loo’ rule that literally never works.

    These are the things that I remind myself of to ease some of the FOMO. Oh, that and the fact that in 2021, we have access to the music, movies, style and culture of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, which is an absolute treat. But beyond the ~aesthetics~, what I really wish I had experienced was the general attitudes of times past that are sadly gone forever.

    The rise of social media has brought us so much, while simultaneously robbing us of so much. Like, when was the last time you went to a concert and didn’t view the entire thing through your phone? When was the last time you had a delicious meal at a café and didn’t compulsively snap a pic before picking up your knife and fork? When was the last time that your night out was spent just enjoying peoples’ company, rather than trying your darnedest to capture sleek footage to share online to make it look like you’re living your best life?

    Hey, I’m not throwing shade at anyone! I’m very much guilty of all of this too. In fact, I’m OBSESSED with social media. And I often wonder, ‘How long will this obsession last? Will I still be hopelessly devoted to Insta when I’m older, or will I finally be free?’ Either way it’s a sad reality, because even if I’m free by then, it’ll be too late. I’d have lost my youth staring at a screen.

    This isn’t the only aspect of life that social media has poisoned. Back in the 1960s, when the idea of radical protesting was at its greatest, people would take to the streets to fight for what they believe in. As we saw from the recent Black Lives Matter protests, that’s very much still happening, which we love to see, but our generation is also plagued by faux activism, which has been enabled and perpetuated by social media. Rather than getting out there and fighting for a cause with passion and fury, people share a post that someone else made to their Instagram Story, sometimes without even reading into the issue, just to make it seem like they’re making a difference. I’ll never forget one time a friend shared a post about a particular issue on their Instagram Story and when I pressed them for more details, they could not give me a solid answer. They had no idea what it was about, they just saw others sharing the post and wanted to jump on the bandwagon.

    But above all, I wish society was as free and unified as it once was. When I was a child, I remember knowing every single neighbour on my street. We had block parties. We gave each other Christmas presents. I played with the neighbours’ kids while my parents and their parents chatted for hours. You really felt that collective community spirit. I’ve been living out of home for six years now, and I have never befriended a neighbour. The absolute closest I’ve gotten to feeling that community spirit is by developing a polite nodding relationship with my current neighbour. In fact, in my last building, my neighbours were all so nasty to one another, people would sooner write a petty name-and-shame note on the notice board than actually knock on a door and talk to their neighbour. The negative atmosphere got so bad that I ended up leaving to get away from it all. It was a far cry from the friendly neighbourhood I grew up in. That sense of community that we once had has whittled away over time and it’s so heartbreaking to see.

    I partly blame this on social media, because I feel like coming face-to-face (well, screen-to-screen) with so many people online has made us less inclined to converse with strangers. But also, a big part of this can be blamed on COVID as it’s made us afraid of those around us. I don’t just mean we’re afraid of catching the virus from other people, but also the different attitudes and opinions of society have created a massive schism in communities everywhere. Our sense of mateship and unity have transformed into division and fear.

    And so whenever I see clips from old festivals and concerts or I look through photos from my parents’ youth, I’m haunted by the fact that the happy and carefree spirit that I see on the faces in the grainy but glorious footage died when social media was born. Us Millennials and Gen Zers are so blessed, but at the same time we have been robbed of so much. I guess this, in part, explains my obsession with old films, TV shows, music and fashion, because dipping back into previous generations reminds me that society wasn’t always as afraid, divided and ruled by technology as it is now. If I could jump in a time machine and travel back, I would do it in a heartbeat. But then again, could I live without my iPhone? Absolutely not.

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