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Why Do We Keep Looking Back?

(AP Photo/Joe Skipper, File)

Earlier, I wrote an article about how we continue to abuse things we grew up with such as old intellectual properties, brands, and franchises. I’m very of the mind that we need to stop, as I think what we’re doing is doing more emotional damage to us than we actually believe, and that we’re chasing a high we’re not going to get back from these things.

(READ: We’ve Abused Our Thirst for Nostalgia)

At the beginning of the article, I mentioned that something is making us want to look back. I can’t help but think that through these reboots and revamps, we’re attempting to retrieve something we lost. We’re trying to get back to something more natural and easy to wrap our heads around.

What I’m trying to say is that I think we, as a human race, hate where we are. I think there’s a disdain for modern society that isn’t just being expressed on the surface. I think we as humans truly feel it deep down, and these constant revisits to our past are an attempt to escape it.

Nostalgia trips aren’t the only way I see this expressed. I see it on TikTok all the time in various ways. I’ve seen women half-joking about how the modern feminist movement ruined it for women by making them go out and work when they used to be stay-at-home moms. I see it in the rise of mental health organizations. I see it in the way my generation reprioritizes what is and isn’t important in our lives in order to make the most of them, a side effect of an age where we’re constantly told we have to perform both in the workplace and in front of others on social media.

It looks like an attempt to either break free of, or escape, modern culture.

And why not? The world isn’t right. Even back in the days of World War 2, things were pretty clear. There were bad guys and good guys. Men were men and women were women, and we each acted as such, and more importantly, we respected that difference. While there were societal oddities and unnecessary prejudices, things were simple on an intellectual level and not much was asked of you to wrap your mind around. That’s not to say that times were easier back then. Far from it. It was one of the most trying times in human history, but at least very very few were pressured to perform for the pleasure of millions, and you weren’t punished for calling a thing what it was.

Today, someone can take something innocuous and turn it into an outrage generator across the nation. People’s entire lives can be upended because some people they’ll never meet didn’t like something someone said. That thing could have been absolutely true, such as saying that a man cannot be a woman, but in today’s society, we’re expected to fall in line with what we know are complete and total lies, and what lie we’re supposed to fall in line with can change at any given moment.

We, as humans, do not yet know how to deal with our digital omniscience. We don’t know how to handle the amount of attention we get from people, even when we do something that pleases thousands all at once. A better understanding of what is and isn’t working, and how we can morph attitudes toward online culture to better suit our human natures, will come with time, but right now, we’re having a difficult go of it. We’re infants and we’re having to learn to walk before our legs are fully functional.

What’s more, our human development is being stunted by a mental virus that infects everything from our art to our news. Mainstream media sources are quite clearly biased to the virus and will distribute lies that perpetuate its growth. Their narratives fling our minds around and paint pictures we’re supposed to take as reality, when the reality is telling us something wholly different. It’s maddening and unfair. It’s unhealthy — both for society and our mental health.

I think our readiness to embrace nostalgia is triggered by our readiness to return to something more real. We want that simplicity back. We don’t want to have to live in a world where up is down, black is white, human sacrifices, dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!

What we want is to speak freely, to know that finding facts and living by them are accepted and even encouraged, that having an idea won’t make you a societal “other,” and that we can rely on the figures who do appear on the world stage to shoot straight with us.

We don’t have that. We have lies, propaganda, narratives, activism, platforms, mobs, cancel culture, and more. So we chase ghosts.

But the thing about ghosts is that they’re not substantial. They’re just the essence of dead things. If we truly want to return back to a society that makes sense, we have to fight what’s here in the present, and that means showing up to fight the battles we didn’t have to before.