Social Media and the Age of Nostalgia

NostalgiaNostalgia is certainly not a new phenomenon, scrapbooks and photo albums have been around forever. Corporations often try to manipulate us in their Television advertising with nostalgic content all the time. It makes sense why some many people gravitate towards nostalgic and sentimental content. After all, mainstream news media is incredibly negative and filled with depressing content about tragedy, war and fear mongering.

Sentimentality can be a release valve for many people. Furthermore, there are a certain percentage of people who use social media for self-gratification and needy, egotistic validation purposes, such as serial selfie takers. It stands to reason that nostalgia in social media is being perpetuated and propagated through feelings of sadness or melancholy. What does it say about a society that seems to be become more obsessed with looking back into the past than moving forward into the future? Probably nothing good.

Experiments have proven that Nostalgia has some benefits, it can temporarily boost mood and make people who are in a cold room feel warmer. The problem is that Nostalgia is only a temporary stress coping mechanism. It ultimately creates a bittersweet feeling because the person cannot return to their childhood or their high school days or have their first love back. Romantic reminiscing about the past is ultimately an unhealthy place to wallow in because you cannot go back there.

People love sharing nostalgic content on social media, it can be a way of helping people of a similar generation to bond. It’s very emotionally powerful and compelling. It’s our connection to a piece of our past and therefore an important part of our identity. After all We define ourselves by our experiences.

The problem is, social media can be a bit of an echo chamber and if you feel your life has hit a bit of a dead end, you’re not going anywhere and you’re not self-actualised. If someone is depressed, feeling lonely and isolated, nostalgic content can help for a time, but it is not the cure. It is merely a bandaid on the problem. Nostalgia can further entrench people in the past. After all, Nostalgia and sentimentality are related closely to melancholy and are largely born out of a dissatisfaction with the present and a feeling of dread or hopelessness about the future. The problem with nostalgia is that it can be triggered by certain types of content and therefore we need to beware of that fact.

Because of the Internet and in particular social media websites, we are being bombarded by more content and media messages than ever before, therefore feelings of Nostalgia are being potentially triggered in us at a higher than normal rate.

There’s huge amount of content online, from Facebook picture posts, quotes, Tweets, Instagram photos and YouTube videos (Top 10 favourite 1980s TV shows, Favourite retro video games etc) that promote feelings of nostalgia in us and it can act like a drug. We come into contact with it, it’s enticing for a time but over a prolonged period, we begin to experience a longing for the past. Now in some people, not everyone, this can induce an unhealthy attachment with past events, past decisions, past mistakes. They can begin to lose connection with the present and they can become disengaged and disinvested in what’s happening in their lives right now. They feel like they’re no longer in the driving seat of their lives and fall back a little bit in autopilot.

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