Look back on your life so far. No, really, I mean it. Reflect on your past, remember what it was like? Go look at an old picture of you or your friends. Did a wave of emotions just crash into you? Did you feel your heart sink into your stomach or are you filled with the warm light of happiness? What a fascinating phenomenon- reminiscing on memories. Suddenly your brain is receiving signals from itself to react in a certain way. Sure, maybe the memory is brought back from a picture or a song but the feeling is entirely internal. There is no action taken by the object or sound that made you feel the way you do now.
But the real question is WHERE did you see it? I don’t think you pulled out an old photo album or popped in an old mixed tape (or listened to an old playlist for our less-than-geriatric readers). More likely than not whatever made you nostalgic was on social media. We have an obsession on the internet with the past. You can see it in the form of sites like archive.org (colloquially known as “The Way-back Machine”) which shows us what websites were like at different points in their pasts or in apps like Timehop where you link up your various social media outlets and it shows you posts that you made on the same date in the past. What makes us want to reminisce on the past so badly that we design websites and applications that exclusively show us how things used to be?
For a lot of people, myself included, looking back on the past is a pretty negative experience typically. Maybe you’ve made a lot of mistakes. Maybe you’ve hurt good people. Maybe you cheated or stole to get by. Is it some form of mental and emotional masochism that makes us do these things to ourselves? You look up old ex’s on Facebook just to “see what they’re up to” and suddenly you’re overcome with all of these horribly overwhelming feelings that you brought upon yourself.
But maybe it comes from a distaste of the present. Maybe we look back to remember what it was like to be happy back then. We dislike whats going on in our world in the political climate or in personal spheres of existence and we need an escape. And we do need to escape from time to time, go check out Mitchell Drummonds’s article “Escaping Escapism” for more on that.
Or maybe it’s an entirely more light reason- we love where we came from. We love the things we’ve done and the people that we’ve done them with. We nostalgically reminisce about an old hobby we used to have or a sport that we used to play. We look back to see our friends in the goofy clothes we used to think were the most dope thing on the planet. We remember childhood innocence and the pains of growing up in wherever you’re from. We see that we really did make it out alive and well.
The “Millennial Generation” is the first generation to have such a thorough and meticulous form of personal documentation. The internet and smart phone culture has created this incredible time-capsule where we can see exactly what we were doing on any specific date that we posted from a decade ago or more. And it’s basically instant, depending on the power of your device and strength of your connection. Future generations will be able to see exactly what was going on without fear of fish-stories or similar misinformation campaigns. This is an incredible time in history and it’s being lead by social media, like it or not.
Where will this all go, ultimately? Only time will tell. Luckily we will have a thoroughly documented and archived. We have the power now to shape the future with social media demonstrated via the power of social media and our memories. The ball is in our court, people; it’s time to play.
“This is America, you live in it, you let it happen. Let it unfurl.”
―Thomas Pynchon,The Crying of Lot 49
-Brendan C. Bush, contributor and co-creator of Heck Media