In the past, music sounded better, products were built to last (no planned obsolesce!), people were more respectful, happier and healthier. Grandpas, sitting on porches and sporting nipple-high pants, can tell you how easier to find a job, have decent relationships and be meaningful was in the days of old. What raises the question: exactly what was present in the past that made everything better? The answer is nothing. By any objective metric, as time passes, the today beats the yesterday: less famine and violence, greater life expectancy, increased overall progress… For Jesus’ sake, they didn’t have even SMS in the 80s.
What people, old or defeners, actually mean as the greener past are selective memories. A septuagenarian man might recall the good blues of the past, or an old lady talk about how hunks were all over her, but it doesn’t mean that no good melancholic music, or handsome people, exist today. Or that the worse counterparts of both didn’t exist before. This is the prime example of selection bias, and a somewhat self-evident quality of quality stuff: people will remember them over shitty things. The past has an almost perfect noise to signal ratio, which is impossible for the present to achieve because the remarkable things of the time have still to be filtered out from the trash. Nobody remembers a poorly executed riff from the 70s over Tony Iommi- well, perhaps unless they are the executer of said riff- but Minaj is still fresh in the mind of a Aught’s person. To top it off, compared to before, now it is immensely easier to produce content- the digital age has decentralized media; anyone can release music, literature or what-have-you, which is a double edge sword: as much the next Nabokov can self-publish, I can put out these lousy essays.
This subjective view of the past leads to nostalgia. When younger, every experience is new, so it figures they turn lackluster as repetition jades them. The opposite is true as well: experiences might become extra special in the lack of further ones, e.g., people might like the social scene of the past better simply because they socialize less as age, and its complications, advances. Biases, unwillingness to explore new things and fuzzy fond memories might all inflate one’s nostalgia to the point they can’t see things as good or enjoyable anymore.
Or perhaps this is what everyone says until the back-in-my-day syndrome attacks through the vector kids-these-days.