The “millennial” generation, also known in some circles as Generation Y, consists of people born from 1981 to 1996. When most people use the term “millennials,” however, they often forget this fact. They often use the word as an insult or to generalize all young adults as lazy, entitled, or toxic and fake woke social justice warriors. That’s much like how younger people would use the term “boomer” to describe people who are regressive or stuck in their old, patriarchal, xenophobic ways.
Known for experiencing the traumas of 9/11 and the 2008 global financial crisis at a young age, millennials are the last generation who remembers a world without Facebook and iPhones. It’s no surprise we’re also known for our early-onset nostalgia—we watched technology advance at a rapid pace, forever changing the world as we knew it.
Our childhood memories offer an escape to a time when things were simpler—when dictators didn’t use social media to mislead their citizenry, when a pandemic wasn’t claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, or when almost all kids went outside to play.
All that said, we’ve pulled together a list of pop culture relics that will surely make every millennial say, “Booyah!”
MySpace and Friendster
Before there was Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, there was MySpace and Friendster. MySpace, the largest social networking site in the world from 2005 to 2009, also functioned as a blog as users could choose what type of posts to make, kind of like a prelude to Tumblr. Friendster, on the other hand, was much like Facebook—except people were allowed to give long-form “testimonials” about their friends. Users would put too much effort into writing about their friends.
Other blogging platforms included websites like Xanga, where users could design their blogs via HTML and CSS and share their heart and soul to strangers. If only we could preserve websites back then—it would be fun to now giggle at the problems our 13-year-old selves thought were so serious.
Boy bands and girl groups
Before the meteoric rise of Korean pop in the West, boy bands and girl groups were all the rage. Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, NSYNC—you name the group, they probably occupied the soundtrack of your childhood.
For the more “edgy” kids, emo groups like Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy, and Jimmy Eat World most likely filled their MP3 players.
One way to confuse kids of today is to show them a floppy disk and ask what it’s for. Since they could store less than 240MB worth of data, these 8-inch disks pretty much singlehandedly carried us through our schoolwork and protected our precious music.
Most Gen Z kids would be surprised if they found out that when you answered your phone back in the ’90s and early ’00s, you would lose your internet. Also, who could forget the alien sounds the dial-up modem made whenever we had to click “log on”?
Remember when MTV actually played music videos people cared about? Remember their iconic animated shows like Daria and Celebrity Death Match, before inane reality TV shows took most of their airtime? The millennial generation is marked with memories of watching MTV when our parents weren’t around.
The ’90s and early ’00s sitcoms
Did you know that Friends was shown on TV before it was streamed on Netflix? It seems like such a long time ago, but sitcoms like Will & Grace, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Boy Meets World, Family Matters, Seinfeld, and many others bring a spirit of nostalgia to those who were born in the early ’80s to mid-’90s. It brings up memories of having dinner in front of the TV, laughing along with your parents and siblings.
The ’90s were a period of significant transition for video games. The evolution from sprite graphics to 3D graphics gave rise to several video games, including real-time strategy, first-person shooter, survival horror, and many others. And who can forget spending hours playing Super Mario, Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, and other games on the Game Boy? How about beating your cousin at Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64?
The Tamagotchi was a keychain-sized handheld digital pet that became one of the biggest toy fads of our childhood. Remember when we had to secretly bring it to school because it could die in thirty minutes without care and attention? Those were some high-maintenance pets.
Blast from the Past
Because the world is in shambles, it’s easier to recall when things were more idyllic and much less complicated. While looking back is fun, we also need to keep moving forward and find pockets of joy in the present.