In this digital age it would be rational for us to assume that the past doesn’t matter the way it once did. In my professional life I am often informed that 71 million Americans between the ages of 18-35 (also known as Millennials) have decidedly broken with the past. One market researcher whom I very much respect told me two weeks ago that “Millennials don’t care about history. They’re only interested in the now and the future.”
I don’t consider myself an expert on Millennials. I work with an awful lot of them. I also speak to many of them in the course of my market research activities. While I can’t affirm definitively whether my colleague’s assessment is correct, I’m skeptical. I find blanket statements dangerous. I also struggle to reconcile a belief that Millennials aren’t interested in the past to real world phenomena that shouts to the contrary. If Millennials don’t care about the past, why are they buying Lomo cameras that use film instead of digital imaging technology–cameras that sport a very retro design? Why are sales of vinyl albums growing? Why is the Moleskine notebook so popular? And why have so many Millennials rallied around the hipster aesthetic, which savors letterpress type, nineteenth century graphic motifs, and old world aesthetics?
It isn’t just Millennials, though. It feels to me like the more technology advances the more we look backward and feel a sense of longing for the past. This became very apparent to me this week as I surfed through the many blogs I follow. In some of the stories below, the glory of nostalgia is palpable. In others, the longing for the past is not the focus of the story, but its presence can be felt under the surface like a ghostly whisper from its author. Read more →