early 2000's high school video of student (l) early 2000's high school video of students (c) early 2000's high school video of student (r)


The early 2000s were not that ‘chill’—despite nostalgic videos

A tweet launched a discourse about how ‘chill’ it was to actually be a teenager at that time. 


Tiffany Kelly

Internet Culture

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Amidst the turmoil on Twitter over the last week, people have been getting nostalgic for different periods in the 2000s. The Twitter meme page non aesthetic things (@PicturesFoIder), which circulates and recirculates viral memes and videos, posted a video from a high school in 2002 with a seemingly innocuous caption, “High school in 2002 looked so chill.” The tweet, however, launched a discourse about how “chill” it was to actually be a teenager at that time. 

“It was not. We smiled for the cameras but were dying inside. Feel better?” reporter Amrita Khalid replied. 

“Yeah I graduated in 2002, everyone in this video was ‘straight’ also,” replied @kevinlpotter. “Things look chill when there is insane social pressure to fit into the mold, the right brands that cost a lot of money were also insanely important, feel like that’s improved some maybe also?”

I’m about to age myself: I too was in high school during the year 2002, and it was not all smiles and sunshine. I attended a public high school with a few thousand students and, just because we didn’t have smartphones and apps like Instagram and TikTok (but we did have LiveJournal!), it doesn’t mean that we didn’t face similar social hurdles and difficulties growing up. The people in this video are likely smiling because they know the person behind the video camera and they were prompted to respond. 

High schoolers in the early 2000s also dealt with a lot of tragedy—the Columbine massacre in 1999 and 9/11 in 2001. But those incidents are often left out of the conversations around idolizing the Y2K aesthetic.

“Genuinely remarkable to see how completely 9/11 and the reverberating insanity of American life 2002-2007 has just disappeared in the public consciousness,” tweeted @ThatJakePC.

When the 2002 high school video was shared on YouTube last year, many of the commenters noted that people look “happier” and more “wholesome.” But this was only a snapshot of one school, and only a few select students made it on-camera. It was also during an era where people were not recording videos nonstop, so the presence of a video camera was a rarer sight. Today, people fear winding up in the background of someone’s TikTok.

Another tweet prompt, “U don’t know someone till Uve seen what their vibe was in 2016,” got people feeling nostalgic for a more recent time period. The tweet received more than 30,000 quote tweets of people sharing what they looked like in 2016. It was a defining year with a big presidential election. There was a notable cultural shift after 2017

Why it matters

Different generations are constantly arguing about how life wasn’t actually better “back then.” 

And we’ll continue to see these responses when out-of-context videos and photos appear on our feeds. It’s also fun for a lot of people to reminisce and share old photos. 

If Twitter becomes a home for nostalgia posts, I’m OK with that.

The Daily Dot