One interesting piece of human nature that I notice a lot is the tendency for people to be nostalgic about everything and feel that the way things were done back in the past were so much better than the way they are done today. While it’s nice to look back and reminisce we need to keep in mind the context of those earlier times and not just let our imaginations take over.
Elderly people are stereotyped all the time as folks who long for the past and who start pretty much every other sentence with the phrase “Back in the good ol’ days….” They will talk about how great life was when there was no cable television, no internet, fewer vehicles than today, stricter parents, harder schools, drive in movies, Coca-Colas for five cents, etc. Of course all of us younger people know that these “archaic” times were not better than the world we live in today. However, we humor the older generation because they believe so passionately that their times and experiences “back in the day” were superior to what is going on currently.
But you know what? It is not just old people who assume everything in the past was so much better than the present. It seems to me like a good portion of society, all ages included, fall victim to this thinking. Nothing is as good as it once was, nothing will ever be able to measure up to something that happened five years ago.
The Super Bowl this past Sunday really seemed to drive this point home to me. It seemed to me like the same old people had the same old critiques and criticisms, mainly “The commercials sucked this year and the halftime show sucked this year.” I hear this every single Super Bowl. Just because you watch a commercial and don’t laugh your ass off does not mean it was a bad commercial, or that it failed compared to commercials of the past. Chances are that the party you were at was too loud for you to pick up on everything in the commercial and you missed something that actually did make the ad funny. Or perhaps you were distracted with everything that was going on around you and turned to the commercial half way in…I know this happened to me a lot. Or maybe you were just too drunk to comprehend what was going on. Even if you paid your undivided, sober attention to each commercial and were still unhappy with them, then fine, you are entitled to your opinion. But don’t say that they sucked compared to previous years.
When I talk to people my age and they tell me that the halftime show just blew this year, I want to pick their brain a little. If you seriously think that Madonna this year and the Black Eyed Peas last year paled in comparison to shows of the past, you suffer from the “back in the ol’ days” syndrome that I discussed earlier. Do you realize what some of the past shows have been? In order of the most recent, here are the past six shows after the Black Eyed Peas performed in Super Bowl XLV: The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Prince, The Rolling Stones, and Paul McCartney. Now I realize these acts were awesome at one time but by today’s standards they belong in retirement homes. The Black Eyed Peas killed it last year with a show that was full of pyrotechnics, cool effects, and #1 songs but people still critiqued it to no end. Madonna this Super Bowl was good. She sang good songs that everyone knew and the surprise guests (Minaj, LMFAO, Cee-Lo, M.I.A.) added a lot to it. Don’t begin to tell me that Bruce Springsteen standing on stage singing his old songs topped the last two shows. Compared to shows of the past, the halftime show on Sunday was good.
Of course it is just not the Super Bowl where people say that things just aren’t the way they used to be. One of my good friends has such a skewed sense of the Missoula social scene. He will regularly complain to me that the bars in downtown Missoula are just not the way they used to be. He will complain that they are not as packed, the girls are not as hot, and there are fewer people that he knows. But come on, what do you expect? You are pushing twenty-six. Bodega and Stocks seem much different when you are a fresh twenty year old student newbie on the scene as opposed to a dude in the latter half of his twenties who has not sat in a classroom for over two years. Don’t complain about Maggotfest either, it did not downgrade this past year, a new generation is just moving in. Halloween at the bars doesn’t seem as fun either? Maybe it is time to hang up the costume. Not happy with Testy Fest anymore, either? Consider that a good thing. You had your fun, the fact that you believe that everything I outlined above has taken a step down might just be your cue to move on.
People will complain about food not being as good as it once was too! They will be convinced that the pizza at a certain place that has not changed its recipe in fifty years is on the decline. They just don’t make it like they used to. Whatever. As you grow older your taste buds change and expectations alter. Most likely, the times when you scarfed down that plate of pancakes at the diner when it was “the best” was when you were probably living out your younger days that were more than likely a lot of fun. Truthfully, when you are young and in your prime, things just taste better, standards are lower. No, the food did not change…the person did.
It is funny, you can take a certain thing away from someone and give them a vastly superior thing of similar nature, and people will complain that the new thing is not as good as the old. Growing up I lived across the street from a park. In this park we had a playground jungle gym type area that was made out of wood. It was shitty but we still played on it every day. The time came when the park management had to demolish the decaying wood structure. In its place they installed a state of the art, colorful, modern playground complex. It came with twisty slides, crazy monkey bars, a glider, and multiple bridges. All of us neighbor kids after about six months started reminiscing about the old playground and how it was so much better than the new one we had. It was asinine.
Adults act this way too. This past year at the athletic department I work at we premiered a brand new, awesome pump up video that we play before our football team comes out. It is probably the most exciting moment in the game day experience that we offer. Despite the fact that we introduced a video that was no doubt as good as any other of its kind in intercollegiate athletics, there were still people who wanted to see a version of the pump up video that came out ten years ago. For whatever misguided reasons they had in their head, they believed that back ten years ago everything was bigger and better. Truth is, if they were to sit down and watch the low quality, static video from ten years ago and then watch the product we put out this past season, they would laugh out loud at the dramatic differences between the two videos and then their laughter would subside into embarrassment for their faulty memory.
This post is getting long so let me just point out a few more examples of people thinking that the past was so much better than the present. 1. My high school football team from twenty years ago would beat the team that my alma matter has this year (No way of telling that, but most likely because of strength programs and the year-round nature of high school athletics today, your team from twenty years ago would most likely get killed by the present day team). 2. When I was a high school/college student, we had so much more spirit, attitude, and fun compared to the present day class (Things change over time and you like to think that no one can quite live up to what your class did/accomplished but chances are that they are exceeding it). 3. Holidays aren’t like they used to be (As the years go by, the magic lessens and lessens, making the holidays less enjoyable. I suggest you celebrate holidays for the right reasons). 4. Facebook gets worse and worse with each update. Can’t we just turn back the clock six years and get the old Facebook back? (No, we can’t. Actually, Facebook gets better and better with each update. See a post I have done on this subject). 5. The world as a whole is a worse place now than it used to be (How about you change that?).
Our minds are tempted to embrace nostalgia at the expense of the present moment. Unless you have quantitative figures and stats to compare a present event/product/experience with a past event/product/experience, don’t do it. Human memory is just too unreliable. Don’t Blink.