Are there “good old days,” on which you find yourself reflecting? If so, what’s on your list?
Maybe you’re saddened by news this week that Boy Scouts of America will change its name in February to “Scouts BSA.” Maybe you believe no good music was recorded after 1977, or you miss the days when anything worth having could be obtained from the Sears catalog. Perhaps you trace the decline of Western civilization to installation of roundabouts in the metro area.
Be it retailers, cursive handwriting or landline phones, there are things we each like to believe were simpler, more attractive, oozing gravitas or just plain better “back then.”
But if the good old days were great and we profess to loathe change, why then do we clamor for innovations that offer more variety, speed, agility and cost savings?
According to psychologists, this duality is most likely ingrained to human behavior because more than 70 percent of us sometimes believe things were better in the past.
This belief is called “declinism.” We participate in declinism when we rely on subjective feelings and emotional responses, not a selection of neutral facts.
Humans may participate in declinism because our strongest memories are imprinted between the ages of 15 and 25, note psychologists. When we felt young, invincible and fresh, we bonded ourselves with places, behaviors, sights, smells, objects and various facets of culture and community.
Although most of us find ourselves waxing nostalgic for something at sometime, we tend to either undervalue or exaggerate declinism in others. For example, some are dismissive when politicians promise a return to “better times,” and recent elections show such talk can swing votes.
If declinism is part of human nature, it can nonetheless be avoided when we stop to examine and push back on our nostalgic ruminations.
One way is to remember those bygone eras were actually only enjoyed fully by select groups. When we reminiscence, we may forget to account for barriers created by economics, nationality, class, access to education, heritage, culture, sex, sexual orientation and more.
The writers of NBC drama “Timeless” illuminate this issue. The series follows three time-travelers: a white woman, white man and black man. The white, male time-traveler seldom needs a workaround when he moves seamlessly and freely about in the past, regardless of location or era.
Another thing to remember is the way things are didn’t just happen. Earlier this week, I chatted with another patron while waiting for takeout. She wanted to know if the Cedar Falls Younkers store had yet closed. We quickly began commiserating about the loss.
It’s too bad, she said, blaming the internet for “killing” beloved retailers. That made me wonder: Aside from my emotional response, what am I likely to do? Why will I do it?
From Deborah Weinswig, retail analyst and Forbes contributor, I learned consumers like me must find a new department store, we usually “splinter” spending to selected specialty, digital-first retailers.
Weinswig’s research shows that while we may lament store closings, we may play some small role in their shuttering. That’s because innovation has allowed more consumers to obtain goods and services tailored to specific needs and desires.
We have more options, and we use them. Even as we lament a change, we participate in behaviors that drive change. Whether it’s shopping, watching TV or navigating city streets, much of what surrounds results from choices we make. Smartphones, drone package delivery service, online shopping, and more are available because they provide solutions we requested.