When I was young, I watched the Back to the Future movie series over and over.
I still have to remind myself from time to time that the “future” in Back to the Future came and went more than 5 years ago.
That’s a little bit frightening. And it’s nice to remember the simpler times.
So what was it about the 1990s that just captured a special feeling? Reddit tells all.
1. The 90’s aesthetic
It was extreme and alternative, not family-friendly wacky or dystopian like a lot of people think when they see an 80’s aesthetic.
Example: the entire aesthetic of Nickelodeon in the 90’s. Slime and extreme s**t.
2. Online privacy being the norm
It’s unreal how blithe some people have gotten toward privacy.
My brother’s a high school teacher, and a few years ago he caught a girl in his class livestreaming herself just…sitting there, learning. He asked her to stop, and noticed that there were 15 people apparently watching her on the stream, and suggested that the kinds of people who would watch a 16-year-old girl sitting in class are maybe not the kinds of people she should want watching her.
The girl’s response was a confused “Why not?”
3. More affordable housing
There was a time when my kid could have moved out and rented with room mates or even on his own.
But its very hard for young people to start out with the current condition.
4. Just general childhood
Free from most adult responsibilities, free from social media, free from bulls**t politics (they were there for sure, but you literally had to look for them, lol), free from a general miasma of fear coming from the media.
When I think back, all I remember is sunshine, the lack of a weight bearing down on my shoulders all the time and the sweet sounds of amazing music.
While I miss it, I am just grateful that I got to experience it.
5. The optimism
It was a pretty happy decade. The Cold War was over. The economy was booming. Technology seemed to be offering us solutions before we even knew we had a problem.
The products of pop culture almost never dwelled on dystopia or decline.
Air travel was about as dangerous as bus travel.
Acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer were problems of the decade before that seem to have been fixed, and climate change was still called global warming and was not nearly so front and center in how people talked about the future.
All in all, the 90s were a pretty solid decade.
6. Mom and pop shops
Family owned convenience stores, diners, burger joints, ice cream parlors, cafes, bookstores, delis, etc.
Even small neighborhood grocery stores.
And independent music venues!
Seems like I’m talking about the 50s but in the 90’s these places still existed. In my hometown most of them are completely gone and were replaced by generic corporate chains or condos. The ones that are still around are struggling to stay afloat and compete.
I’m glad I got to enjoy them while they existed but also realized how much I took them for granted.
7. The optimistic internet
I genuinely feel like the Internet has gone from “the most important and greatest achievement of humanity” to “something that might have been a mistake” during my lifetime
It’s really sad because a global communications network should be a great thing for everyone
8. The airports
I miss how chill and cool airports were.
Watching the plane leave after hugging my parents goodbye or waiting at the window watching it dock knowing someone you were waiting for was about to get off.
9. The arcades
Arcades d**d specifically because home console graphics caught up to them. The PS1 and Saturn got close enough that the differences started feeling minor and then with the Dreamcast and PS2 (and the rise of online gaming) it was all over.
It’s not as though Dave and Busters and Round One are unpopular, but you go for experiences that don’t translate as well to home, which means the few modern arcade games are either steering wheel racers, light gun games, or peripheral-based rhythm games.
10. Full size Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts
They’re, like, half the thickness these days!
That and eating them while watching back to back episodes of Saved by the Bell on Saturday mornings. Good times…
11. Sit-in Pizza Huts
I was on vacation in the mountains up state and they had one in town. I got to have pizza in an actual Pizza Hut for the first time since the late 90’s early 2000’s.
We had one outside of town and then that closed and they made a to go one that ended up also closing. Now I can have one of the local places or Papa John’s or Domino’s.
The target nearby does have the mini Pizza Hut pizzas and some of their appetizers. It’s hardly the same as getting it from a Pizza Hut itself.
12. Goofing off without it being posted
I had to stop drinking with one of my friends because she’d ALWAYS record everyone doing anything even remotely fun or goofy and it’d be on snapchat or Facebook within seconds.
Like, I just wanna get a little d**nk and dance and have a good time with my friends, I don’t want every person I hardly know seeing me let loose.
13. Authentic social interactions
Being social with people felt so different and authentic.
My friends would sometimes just “drop by” to see if I was home to say hi.
We could pick up the phone and have hour long conversations.
It felt like text message cheapened that.
The lesser dependence on technology seemed to cultivate more genuine friendships but that was just my experience.
14. TV with specific broadcast times
We would all gather in my tiny college apartment to watch The Office every week. Good memories!!
And I believe Game of Thrones was the last time I did that with any friends as well.
I wonder if we’ll ever do that again.. weird to think that might have been the last time.
15. Being unreachable
I miss not being able to be reached, or being able to reach people.
Back then you’d call your friend and it would ring somewhere in their house. If there was no one there (which was common) you’d shrug and just carry on your day. If you just wanted to chill out on your own you’d just not answer the phone.
Now, everyone knows people are never without their phones. I’ve had people p**sed at me because I took an hour to reply to a text.
16. Pre-9/11 Airports
I was moving cross country and called a friend to bring me my toolset he borrowed so I could put it in my checked baggage. He never showed up and I thought well, that’s that.
Sitting on the plane, the stewardess walked up and said are you “____” I said yes, and she just handed me my 120 piece toolset complete with hammer, socket wrench, screwdrivers, carpet knife and explained the friend had arrived at the gate just after I boarded.
Even back then I was like…”seriously?”
17. The movies
A lot my favorite movies are mid-sized thrillers from the 90’s. A lot of big actors, but not huge spectacles.
That segment is dying out. You have huge blockbusters for international markets, some prestige period pieces, comedies and indies. And then there are TV shows.
But the sort of ‘Harrison Ford’s wife is missing, again’ films are severely lacking theses days.
Now I have an endless supply of s**t to keep my mind occupied. I never find myself wondering out for the sake of finding something to do. Trying to call everyone in my book to find someone to hang out with it.
I think part of the problem is that the endless supply of distractions just aren’t all that satisfying. They’re rarely worth remembering or talking to people about. I don’t really feel like I’m living. Just existing.
19. Renting at Blockbuster
Man, and then you saw that summer movie in the theater and loved it but then you had to wait for it to be on video.
That first time seeing that at Blockbuster or your local place after waiting like six months for it to come out was magical.
20. Separate experiences
I miss the lack of interconnectivity.
Like, my summer camp friends were different from school friends, and I didn’t really see my summer camp friends outside of July and August.
Everything was distinct.
When I went from Western New York to New Jersey to see family, it was basically like being on another planet.
I think I like everything being more connected, but that sense of distinctness is something I miss.
21. The smaller internet
Before AOL discs were available everywhere there were online service providers like Prodigy, CompuServe, Delphi, TheSierraNetwork, and GEnie.
The internet used to feel more like islands in an ocean instead of rest stops all on the same highway.
22. The hope
We still played outside but had some awesome multi player games that you played together in the same room. The world seemed to be heading for better and better things.
Then 2001 happened.
23. Offline gaming
I have my computer set to manually connect to the internet. I still have to sign into steam to play a game that isn’t dependent in an active connection.
Thankfully there is an offline mode for steam but I shouldn’t have to sign in in the first place if the game doesn’t require a password
24. Original Pokemon cards
Those were the f**king best.
My niece is big into Pokemon now, and she just got a s**tload of cards for her birthday. Made me want to start collecting them again, but I look up the packs from my youth and they’re astronomical prices.
25. Binging new albums
I miss getting a new album from a band (in cassette form), popping it into my Walkman and just exploring my neighborhood listening to the same songs over and over.
Now with music streaming services and access to all of the music ever created I actually almost never listen to new music. And when I do, I feel silly listening to it over and over. Even songs I like these days, I rarely remember the words to and I never even remember track titles.
It used to be, if I got a Green Day album, I listened to it until I memorized all of the track names and all if the lyrics. Simpler times and more free time I guess.
26. A small world after all
Sure there are a lot of really great things about being able to talk to anyone, anywhere at anytime.
But the appreciation of how big and impressive the world really is because of how hard it was to contact people in different countries AND the bonds you formed with people in your closer community.
That’s something that is gone forever.
27. Pleasant detachment
Yeah, technology was booming, but there was a sense of independence that I feel like a lot of kids don’t have anymore.
I feel like growing up in the middle class U.S. in the 90s had the best of both worlds. I was able to play video games and all that stuff, but I still had the freedom of my mom not knowing where I was at every second of the day when I was out in the woods with my friends or playing somewhere.
I also miss the whole sense of being “proud to be a kid” if that makes sense, where the divide between childhood and adulthood was not a thin line. I mean that in the sense of we had shows like Recess, and the “kids’ unwritten code of honor” and we had celebrities who were just for us.
I do think that today’s culture, especially with social media, has muddled the line between childhood and adulthood. I don’t think it’s bad, and I don’t mean it to come off in a Holden Caulfield kind of way, and I’m sure that Gen Z is having and had fantastic childhoods too, I just think that kids today are thrust into maturity a lot faster than us 90s kids were.
28. The traditional radio
It was much easier to listen to new music when I wasn’t really in control of the music I listen to.
Now I’m one of those people with the same playlist with few songs that never gets really updated.
29. Making plans
Ubiquitous cell phone ownership and usage has made everything very “on the fly”. Just hanging out with people required legit planning. There was no such thing as “Let me call so-and-so and see where they’re at” because if they answer was anything other than “Sitting by the phone waiting for your call” then you were out of luck.
But it meant that those interactions were much more deliberate and meaningful. You looked forward to those meet-ups. We don’t “make plans” for the small stuff anymore, we just fish for interest in the moment and maybe someone is bored and will stop by. In some ways it’s much more convenient, but that convenience has taken something away from the quality of the experience.
30. Teen spirit
Ranging from that first day when I watched Friends to the day when Eminem topped the billboard that would 2000’s Era but I’ll never forget the small television and Walkman and the 90’s fashion sense …
I miss the days everybody was trying be different which so ironic now because now if you aren’t in sync with what people are today then you are behind and stuff.
It was such a carefree Era, I loved my teens.
Tell ya what I don’t miss: dial-up. That can stay in the past. Forever.
What do you miss?
Tell us in the comments.