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Slate Writer Used to Be ‘With It.’ Science Explains Why He Isn’t Now

This guy used to be 'with it' too (image by Flickr user j__st)
• August 13, 2014 10:48 am

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I must admit to finding this piece over at Slate remarkably amusing. Here's the headline used to tease the story:

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 9.48.46 AM

I mean, that's practically the definition of nostalgia. "Why do I like this thing that was popular when I was young?" You might as well just be asking "Why is nostalgia a thing?" And that is more or less what the piece ends up answering, kind of. Not until we get past Mark Joseph Stern's lede, however:

As I plod through my 20s, I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon: The music I loved as a teenager means more to me than ever—but with each passing year, the new songs on the radio sound like noisy nonsense. On an objective level, I know this makes no sense. I cannot seriously assert that Ludacris’ "Rollout" is artistically superior to Katy Perry’s "Roar," yet I treasure every second of the former and reject the latter as yelping pablum. If I listen to the Top 10 hits of 2013, I get a headache. If I listen to the Top 10 hits of 2003, I get happy.

Well, duh. It's like the antithesis of a #SlatePitch. This is something that literally everyone knows. It is a common refrain in the culture, so much so that it's basically a cliche at this point ("get off my lawn you damn kids"). Consider, for instance, this video clip:

Or this one!

"Nostalgia" is one of those things that we don't really need neuroscience to explain. People like the music they grew up with and think other music is crap. That's part of the human condition.

I'm not sure why I'm so amused by Stern's piece. In part it's the self-centeredness — "Look at this thing that I've noticed as if it's a novel thought!" — but I don't think that's the entirety of it. I think it has more to do with the idea that we need science to "explain" nostalgia. The whole of human history understands the concept. Everything was always better when you were younger, unless you grew up during a genocide or something. That's just how life works.

Update: Here's another relevant Simpsons clip, via @GPIA7R: