What Do You Miss Most?

What Do You Miss Most?

August 7, 2017

What do you miss most? Exploring how American sentiment changes over past, present, and future

There’s a reason why the holidays make us feel so nostalgic. From some of our most cherished memories and the people we shared them with to our personal experiences around the holiday season, the traditions we create during these festive months may stay with us forever.

If that sense of nostalgia has you longing for the past, don’t worry. Research shows people who feel nostalgic for a particular time or place are often happier, more optimistic, and more charitable toward others.

When it comes to the bittersweet yearning for days gone by, the holidays aren’t the only things that can trigger nostalgia in us. To learn more, we surveyed 972 Americans to find out what they missed most in this digital age and how nostalgia changed by demographic. Read on to see what we discovered.

Feelings Toward the Past and Future

Growing up: then and now. Comparing the time periods of adolescence to present day, by generation

60 percent of Americans aged 34 and younger said their childhood was a better place to grow up than in present time. They weren’t alone either. Sixty-nine percent of Gen Xers and 3 in 4 baby boomers said things were better when they were growing up than they were today. From climate change to terrorism and increased levels of domestic and international violence, some experts suggest it might not be entirely irrational to have more fear for the future than the past.

While the kids growing up in America today may not have a formal definition yet, they’re often described as ranging from 5 to 19 years old. As it turns out, Gen Zers may have already started off on the wrong foot, according to the people polled. Over 70 percent of millennials said Gen Zers were more disrespectful and tended to do more mature things at an earlier age, and more than 2 in 3 baby boomers said they were less responsible. While 37 percent of baby boomers and Gen Xers said today’s kids were less inhibited than when they were growing up, nearly half of millennials thought Gen Zers had them beat for their wild and crazy antics.

Past Recollections

Reliving the glory days: The decades and milestones most associated with nostalgia, by generation

With the future shrouded in so much uncertainty, we asked respondents which decades they’d most like to relive.

Male and female baby boomers (aged 51 to 69) weren’t exactly on the same page about the decades that made them the most sentimental. According to 33 percent of men, it was the fashion, music, and energy of the ’70s they most wanted to relive. Sometimes referred to as the greatest decade for rock music, bands and records from the ’70s remain icons of the genre today.

Twenty-nine percent of female baby boomers and 46 percent of female Gen Xers agreed they wanted to relive the ’80s if given a chance. Fashion and music evolved, and the rock ’n’ roll of the ’70s gave way to legends like Michael Jackson and Prince in the ’80s. Perhaps this is perfectly captured in movies like “The Breakfast Club,” which still seem to inspire nostalgia in generations that didn’t experience the ’80s for themselves.

Millennials may not be old enough to have experienced too many other decades, but nearly half of men and women between the ages of 18 and 34 (and even 42 percent of male Gen Xers) said the ’90s were their pick. New technology, changes in fashion trends, and even epic sports rivalries helped make the ’90s great and give even the youngest Americans something to look back on with fondness.

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

When it comes to technology, it’s unlikely anyone is disputing the value of indoor plumbing or centralized air conditioning. Still, some technological advances have made certain habits, skills, and items obsolete, and these missing gaps could be creating nostalgia.

According to our poll, it’s possible no one likes social media less than millennials. With more than 2.4 billion estimated users by 2018, social media hasn’t just changed the way we communicate, but it’s also changed the world. While some of the impacts may be positive, there can be a downside to being too connected online. Lower self-esteem, fewer real-life interactions, and even more peer pressure could be the key reasons why 29 percent of millennials said social media, technology, and the internet were their least favorite parts of modern life.

While men and women were nearly in agreement over their dissatisfaction with social media and the internet, more than 1 in 5 women said they hated the feeling of being disconnected from their communities. Real-life connections help us feel happier and can even positively impact our health and lifespan. Men were also three times as likely to admit they hated today’s political climate and the issues it presented.

Democrats were more concerned than Republicans with the impact social media had on today’s culture, while Republicans were more worried than Democrats about feeling disconnected from their community.

Living for the Future

Perks of the information age: the most well-loved aspects of life in the present, by demographic

The internet and social media may have their downsides, but roughly 1 in 4 people from every generation said access to information and knowledge was their favorite part of living in the present. While research suggests an oversaturation of facts and figures can make us too confident in our own brainpower, there’s almost nothing you can’t answer through a quick Google search or with the help of a personal assistant built into your smartphone.

Baby boomers loved the ease of communication and connection more than any other generation. Daily internet and social media use have been increasing among older Americans in recent years – making the web a powerful tool to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.

While men were more impressed than women with what they could access and accomplish online, women found the ease of modern communication more valuable than men. Republicans said they loved advancing technology more than Democrats, including the ease of communication and the internet.

More Alike Than Different

Top tech: America's favorite technological advances by demographic

While people of all ages and demographics may use the internet differently, our survey found a vast majority of Americans were still plugged online. Millennials may be considered the first generation of “native” users (those born at a time when the internet was likely already available), but 64 percent of Americans 65 and older are using the internet in some capacity today, and over 1 in 3 are connected to social media.

According to at least 94 percent of baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials, the internet ranked as one of America’s favorite technological advancements. From the way it keeps us connected to the knowledge it can provide, nearly everyone surveyed loved the internet. Google, smartphones, and GPS devices also earned top spots as popular tech tools.

Millennials and baby boomers had nearly identical affection toward social media, although e-books were more popular among older generations and millennials were more likely to list apps for entertainment, transportation, and dating as their favorites.

Glass Half Full or Empty?

The future's bright?: The percentage of Americans who are optimistic about the future, by demographic

It can be natural to feel anxious at the thought of change. Even with technology, as old products take on new features, we may still feel nervous about things being different than before. Still, it’s possible that change is one of the few constants in life, and whether we trust it, there may be no slowing down the future of innovation and transition.

Regardless of age, gender, or even political affiliation, Americans were split on how optimistic they were about the future. Millennials were more likely to admit they had hope for the way things might be going, but 31 to 35 percent of Americans of every age said they simply weren’t sure. For many, experts suggest it’s the things we can’t control (like identity theft or even the economy) that scare us the most, and Americans are more afraid of terrorism today than they’ve been at any point since 2001.

Even politics can play a role in the things we worry about. Despite having recently elected a Republican president, Republicans were less optimistic about the future than Democrats.

Making Technology Work for You

There’s nothing wrong with taking a trip down memory lane now and then, even if it leaves you nostalgic. Nostalgia is, in fact, good for us and can make people feel more connected to others around them. When the future is particularly uncertain, nostalgia can even help us feel safer and meet challenges with more confidence and certainty.

At Bay Alarm Medical, we bring the things that matter most to you – family, health, and independence – together with powerful technology to keep you and your loved ones safe. Considered one of the most affordable and reliable medical life alert devices on the market today, we want you to have peace of mind with the quality protection you deserve. With in-home medical alert services, mobile GPS help buttons, and even automatic fall detection, Bay Alarm Medical has everything you need to feel protected at all times. Visit us at BayAlarmMedical.com to learn more.


We surveyed 972 Americans about their opinions on the past, present, and future.


  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/more-mortal/201612/5-reasons-the-holidays-are-powerful-source-nostalgia
  • https://www.elitedaily.com/life/nostalgic-people-happier/988526
  • http://ambitious.com/the-younger-generation-has-been-ruining-the-world-since-forever/
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/excellent-beauty/201607/is-the-world-more-dangerous-now-ever
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/fashion/move-over-millennials-here-comes-generation-z.html
  • https://medium.com/@jtesterkamp/new-hollywood-why-the-70s-were-the-greatest-decade-in-america-cinema-c42676e2170f
  • http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/25-reasons-why-everything-was-better-in-the-80s-770804
  • https://mic.com/articles/11285/13-reasons-why-the-1990s-were-the-best-decade-ever#.KBroW1TBT
  • https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2017/05/05/20-things-we-dont-do-anymore-because-technology/101250148/
  • https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/04/6-ways-social-media-is-changing-the-world/
  • https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/negative-effects-of-social-media/
  • http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/connect-others
  • https://hbr.org/2015/07/the-internet-makes-you-think-youre-smarter-than-you-are
  • https://www.huffingtonpost.com/anita-kamiel-rn-mps/older-people-social-media_b_9191178.html
  • http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/
  • http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/
  • http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/internet-broadband/
  • https://www.inc.com/daniella-whyte/5-reasons-people-resist-change-and-what-we-can-do-about-it.html
  • http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2017/09/18/551897336/iphone-xs-face-id-inspires-privacy-worries-but-convenience-may-trump-them
  • http://time.com/4158007/american-fear-history/
  • https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/10/12/survey-top-10-things-americans-fear-most/91934874/
  • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-nostalgia-is-good-for-you/
  • https://reporter.rit.edu/features/science-nostalgia

Fair Use Statement

If reading this project made you feel nostalgic 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 credit can be correctly attributed to those who worked on this project.


Google Rating
Based on 11813 reviews