"nostalgia for a time or a place one has never known"


Freya India has been writing about the Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha experience. You know the confusion so many people seem to be having about 20-somethings these days? She’s got you covered. 

What’s most fascinating about her work is how she’s exploring the generational relationship with both technology and the perception of time

It might seem like a subtle detail, but think about this with me. 

You needed a clock to know the train was running on time, right? 

And you needed a bell to say when the day or trading session or whatever was starting and ending, right? 

But you didn’t know those were things until they were things that entered some aspect of your experiential life either, right? 

What happens when a ding, or a vibration, or a push - an expectation or anticipation of some piece of information is about of your every waking experience from a young age? 

This is a heartbreaking discussion of technology and time perception. In India’s words, 

But most of us in Gen Z were given phones and tablets so early that we barely remember life before them.  Most of us never knew falling in love without swiping and subscription models. We never knew having a first kiss without having watched PornHub first. We never knew flirting and romance before it became sending DMs or reacting to Snapchat stories with flame emojis. We never knew friendship before it became keeping up a Snapstreak or using each other like props to look popular on Instagram. And the freedom—we never felt the freedom to grow up clumsily; to be young and dumb and make stupid mistakes without fear of it being posted online. Or the freedom to be unavailable, to disconnect for a while without the pressure of Read Receipts and Last Active statuses. We never knew a childhood spent chasing experiences and risks and independence instead of chasing stupid likes on a screen. Never knew life without documenting and marketing and obsessively analyzing it as we went.

How does THAT snowball? You don’t know. I don’t. We don’t. Nobody does. 

Instead we try to package it up as nostalgia, but - India again, 

Maybe I’m naive. Maybe all generations look back with nostalgia. But my sense is they don’t do it for a time they never knew. They feel a longing for their youth; their childhood. My parents might flick through black-and-white photos and hear stories from my grandparents and feel intrigued, but not so much grief. I think there is something distinctly different and deserving of our attention about online forums filled with Zoomers wishing that they lived before social media. Wishing it didn’t exist. These are children grieving their youth while they are still children. These are teens mourning childhoods they wasted on the internet, writing laments such as “I know I’m still young (14F), and I have so many years to make up for that, but I can’t help but hate myself for those years I wasted doing nothing all day but go on my stupid phone.”

The literature on how young brains are being wired has hit me. It’s made me think and it’s made me worry. But Freya India has caught me on a different level of awareness. Her language makes me feel something else. It makes me see the weird nostalgia in a new light.  

And she has a word for it I’m grateful to now know: anemoia.

There is a beautiful and melancholic word I like called anemoia. It means nostalgia for a time or a place one has never known.

Our relationship with technology and time perception has shifted. 

How we spend, invest, or waste time has shifted, because of our relationship with technology. 

Why wouldn’t it be generational? 

We need to be thinking of this now more than ever. 

Especially in how we talk with those that grew up in the more convenient world we created. This requires new skills. This requires new creativities.