When it comes to the speed of technology today, we’ve all said it: “when I was your age,” or “back in my day.” It’s easy for baby boomers (and yes, even millennials) to wax nostalgic about the past when things are changing so much in the present.
We asked 1,000 people of different ages what they missed the most about the past and their childhood. We even asked what they thought about children growing up in this new technologically advanced world. Curious who’s got the most positive – and most cynical – perspectives? Read on to find out.
Taking a Trip to the Past and Present
We asked people to think back to a time they felt most nostalgic about or wanted to experience for the first time.
For baby boomers, we found over 87 percent dreamt of re-visiting the 1960s. When a new car might cost you less than $3,000, and a gallon of gas cost a quarter, the ’60s might be considered a more simple time. While war did loom over those who lived through this decade, imagine getting a chance to walk with Martin Luther King Jr., see the first episode of “Star Trek” air, or watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to walk on the moon.
For Gen Xers, the ’80s was their decade of choice. From the cult classic film The Goonies to the first Pac-Man game in 1980 to getting to hear Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the 1980s were full of iconic moments Gen Xers said they wanted to experience one more time.
However, millennials were happier to stay in this century. Most told us they only wanted to go as far back as the 2000s. Millennials were also the most likely to be happy in the present compared to other generations.
When America Was Most Great
Thinking back to a better time in American history also means sometimes thinking back to a different era in politics. We asked our participants which U.S. presidents they missed the most.
President Barack Obama may have just gotten out of office, but over a third of millennials already felt nostalgic about him. From fist bumping with the FLOTUS to his two terms of historic moments, young people were decisive in getting Obama elected. The person they miss the most, however is Bill Clinton.
Baby boomers and Gen Xers felt the most nostalgic for Ronald Reagan. Perhaps this is what inspired President Trump to run on a similar campaign slogan (and even trademark it). Over 25 percent of baby boomers and more than 40 percent of Gen Xers felt the most nostalgic about this former actor.
Less than 2 percent of any generation told us they felt any emotional ties to Richard Nixon.
Life Now vs. Then
In today’s world, metal detectors in public schools are a reality, the debate about arming schools for defense purposes is a real conversation and an increasing number of children are living in poverty. We asked survey participants if they felt growing up today was better than it might have been in the past.
Gen Xers (36.5 percent) and baby boomers (31.9 percent) were the most likely to say growing up while they were children was better than it is now. From safety concerns to debates around the education process in general, almost a third of every generation believed growing up was better in the past than today.
Still, over 40 percent of millennials believed growing up today was better. From technological advancements to a fresh perspective on children’s toys, being a kid in today’s world certainly has its perks.
Dating and Nostalgia
Love can be a many splendored thing, but for some, certain points in a relationship are more fun than others.
Some participants preferred the excitement of being in a new relationship. Of those who said these new budding romances were their favorite part of being with someone, 22 percent were millennials. However, only 15 percent of baby boomers wanted to get to know someone for the first time.
Of course, not everyone loves being in a committed relationship. Of participants who preferred being single, 10 percent were millennials, 8 percent were Gen Xers, and 5 percent were baby boomers. In fact, millennials have taken a vocal stance about their feelings toward the typical nuclear family and have decided if forced, they might prefer having a successful career to a family if both aren’t possible.
Casual dating can be fun and is now perhaps easier than ever. The quickness in which one can find and communicate with a potential date, however, has significantly changed the dating landscape. Perhaps this explains why this is the least longed for chapter in a person’s romantic life. Four percent of baby boomers looked back favorably on this period, while 7 percent of millennials felt the same.
Not-so-Different Perceptions of Ambition and Responsibility
Next, we asked respondents how they felt about children today and how they might be different than when baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials were children.
Gen Xers were more likely to have a less positive opinion of today’s children than baby boomers or millennials. Of those who said they thought today’s kids were either less ambitious or less responsible, over a third were Gen Xers. Those in this generation are almost as likely to quote their work ethic as what defines them as they are to cite technology use. In contrast to Millennials, who are often cited as suffering from participation trophy syndrome, Gen Xers have a somewhat cynical opinion of those who came after them.
When it came to a positive perception of today’s youth, millennials were the most likely to see kids today as more ambitious and responsible than when they were children.
The Present is a Present
Today, most Americans can agree we’ve made incredible gains in technology, gender and race equality, and LGBT rights over the past half-century (though we still have much to learn on all three subjects). In fact, participants rated their satisfaction with the internet an 8.1 on a scale of 1 to 10. Technological advancements in the automobile industry were rated a 7, and online dating was given a 5.1.
Frequent interactions between races were rated an 8, signifying an overall acceptance of people who come from different backgrounds and cultures. It is also worth noting minorities and women are now better able to secure jobs in the workforce than older counterparts could just a few decades ago. The same sentiment can be applied to same-sex and nontraditional families, who are now more widely accepted than they once were.
The rose-colored glasses aren’t always available to Americans, however, as many believe we still have a lot of work to do regarding social interactions, manners, and income equality. In fact, smartphones are thought to make people less social (3.6), language has become rife with profanity and slang (3.4), and there is a greater degree of income inequality (3.3), according to respondents.
Optimism, Pessimism, and Uncertainty
When it came to thoughts about the future, Gen Xers had the most pessimistic outlook on things to come. More than 40 percent said they didn’t feel favorably about the direction of the future and less than a third said they felt optimistic about the shape of things to come.
Baby boomers were actually the most likely to admit feeling unsure. Whether that’s a result of today’s political climate or the challenges and concerns facing children and students, more than a third of baby boomers weren’t confident about the future.
Millennials, on the other hand, were the most likely to feel positive about the future. More than a third said they were optimistic and were the least likely of any generation to say they didn’t think good things were happening.
Sources of Nostalgia
We’re all capable of feeling those sweeps of nostalgia from time to time – thoughts of ice cream trucks driving through the neighborhood, a game of stickball after school, or (for the younger crowd) reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” long after you were supposed to be asleep.
Survey respondents were most nostalgic when they listening to music (70 percent), visiting certain places (57 percent) or watching old movies (53 percent). Fortunately, nostalgia has been found to be beneficial. For instance, it can remind us how meaningful our life is and help us feel more connected.
The Best and Worst Parts of the Present
When asked forthright about the status of the U.S. and future endeavors, most respondents were excited about one thing: the internet. It’s true, the web is an intricate, wonderful place full of information (and viral videos), but it can also have a dark side. Luckily, participants were also excited about the current status of their community, friendships, and family.
The most hated aspects of the present included a lack of empathy and respect and the overuse of smartphones. It seems the thing we love most is also what makes us weary of the future.
Feel Safe in Today’s Future
Regardless of if life was better in the past or today’s kids are worse off, there’s no denying that things are changing and advancements in technology are a big part of it.
When it comes to feeling safe in our present time, let technology work for you. At BayAlarmMedical.com, we believe in protecting the most important things in life – family, health and independence. We pride ourselves in providing the best senior life-saving alert systems in the nation. Our clients are fully protected with industry-leading technology and backed by one of the nation’s most reliable 24-hour medical alarm emergency call centers.
We surveyed 1,000 people broken up (334 Millennials, 333 Generation X’ers and 333 Baby Boomers) and asked them about their sentiments towards the past and present.
Fair Use Statement
If reading this project made you feel nostalgic for times past, and you want to share it with someone from then or now, we welcome you to do so for noncommercial purposes. However, we politely request that you please link back here so that credit can be properly attributed to those that worked on this project.