A few weeks ago I hosted a live Space on Twitter and was fortunate to have one of my online heroes, Shawn Robare, join in for a conversation. The conversation ebbed and flowed, and several minutes were spent talking about the good old days of what I like to call the “retro verse” blogging community.
In the neighborhood of ten to twelve years ago, there was a thriving community of bloggers who focused their efforts on writing about the “good old days”. Those days of our childhood that were filled with toys, cartoons, movies, television shows, and just the general pop culture of the ’80s and ’90s. It would have been hard to throw a rock and not hit a blogger who dedicated at least a little bit of their online space to writing about things from days gone by. But now, it’s hard to find many of us left who dedicate their time to spinning tales of wonder about those good old days.
We offered up varying opinions as to why that is. Things like the rise of social media and the shortened attention spans of the audience were discussed. But then Shawn asked a question that I’ve thought about every day since that conversation: Is nostalgia dead?
He followed that question up with a hypothesis that so many of the things we used to pine for from our youth is no longer gone. In this age of streaming, it’s hard to think of a movie, television show, or cartoon from our youth that can’t be accessed now at the touch of a button. Our favorite toy lines from back then now enjoy as much or more success as they did in their heydey via all of the various reboots and relaunches. Hell, even New Coke and Crystal Pepsi have seen limited re-releases to quench our thirsts in this modern age. He is very correct in the thought that it’s hard to really miss much from our past because so much of it is now thriving again in the present.
With that perspective, it makes sense that so many of my favorite old online haunts went the way of the dinosaur and became extinct. Even Shawn’s own Branded in the ’80s site ceased publication last year, albeit for different reasons than I’ve highlighted here, but it’s now dormant nonetheless.
So why do some folks like myself continue to spend time writing and podcasting about those things from the past? For me, it’s a simple answer, and that answer is I still like to share my memories. And I’m certainly not alone, as there are several holdovers left from the retro blogging community who still carry the torch, and I’ve even discovered a few newcomers as well. As a matter of fact, just three short years ago, Jason Gross and I launched The Retro Network as a hub for creative people to have a place to share their memories without having to host a site of their own. We’ve got over two dozen actively engaged contributors who write, podcast and produce videos that are all centered around nostalgia.
But what about the audience for such writing? Does it still exist? It’s one thing to create the content, but it’s a whole other for people to find and digest it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen the bounce rate for Retro Ramblings climb, and time spent on the site fall. Both of those statistics point to a declining fanbase. But is that because a once engaged audience no longer feels the nostalgia tug at their heartstrings like they once did and thus no longer need a nostalgia fix, or could it just be they are just tired of what I’m offering in particular? The answer to that eludes me, and neither one feels good. On the flip side of that, my social media engagement continues to rise, pointing to it being a trend where folks would rather just scroll and hit a quick “like” button versus stopping to consume something you’ve created in full. And that’s a painful trend as Shawn pointed out in our conversation. A lot of time gets spent crafting a post or feature, and all it warrants from the vast majority is a “like” without them ever actually reading or consuming the content itself.
I’ve said all of that to say this…if you’re like me and you enjoy reading other people’s memories of the things you enjoyed, or you like discovering things from the past that you may not have had the pleasure of experiencing back when it was popular, there are still retro creators out there that are working hard to scratch your itch. I’d like to close this piece out by highlighting several of those folks. I won’t be hitting everyone out there in the retro verse in this list, but I did want to highlight several in case you were unaware of their existence. I mean, if you’re reading this right now, you’d probably like to visit these fine folks as well.
- Rediscover the ’80s – Jason is always going back to the ’80s to look at some interesting facet of the decade.
- The Retro Network – A whole stable of folks who are putting memories on an almost daily basis.
- Dinosaur Dracula – Matt has been doing this a long time, and still brings things to the table I haven’t thought about in years.
- 20 Years Before 2000 – A whole host of topics get explored in a fun and colorful way.
- Masked Library – Kevin brings a lot of wrestling talk, but also hits the nostalgia bone quite a bit.
- The Retro Dad – Retro memories and interests of a 20th Century Gen-Xer.
- Plaid Stallions – Always bringing up cool old rack toys that were found on store shelves along with a lot of Mego talk.
- Retroist – All kinds of stuff from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s
- Retro-Daze – Tony and the gang have new old memories going up all the time and a fun community all around.
As I said, it isn’t a complete list by far, but those are some of the sites I check daily. And who knows, maybe one day, something like the old Pop Culture League or League of Extraordinary Bloggers will come along again and more voices will be found out wandering in the dark.
But what are your thoughts on the question of Is Nostalgia Dead? Does it tug at you like it once did, or are most of your nostalgia needs now filled? Do you still enjoy reading/listening/watching things nostalgia-related. Please sound off in the comments section below, because it’s a subject I’m deeply interested in knowing people’s feelings on.