Is Technology Making Us More Nostalgic?

I bet you have at least one photograph in your house/apartment/tent you are currently living in. From where I’m sat now, I can see photographs of friends and family and even a grandparent I never met. I’m surrounded by moments, seconds in time that were captured through the power of technology all the way from the 1940s to the 2010s and are now hanging on my wall. I’m surrounded by the past and I reckon all this technology is making us more nostalgic.

A few hundred years ago, life was a lot different. People died younger, they didn’t have much money and they worked constantly.  Wednesday would come and go, as would Thursday and Friday, May and June and 1792 and 1793. For most people who weren’t scholars, there wasn’t much time for thinking about or reliving the past and people didn’t really have many possessions that they could relive things through. I’m sure people would sometimes sit down and reminisce about that time King George III passed through the town but they wouldn’t live alongside physical reminders of their own personal history.

And then the photograph was invented, this sheet of paper that is an accurate representation of a moment in time. Like any new technology, cameras were expensive at first but it has gradually become so that almost everyone has some sort of photographic device. Where once the taking of photographs was reserved for special occasions, now people can take photos, for free, whenever and wherever they fancy, creating more and more images for us to look back on and reminisce over.

The same is true of video cameras. My parents can’t relive their fourth birthday parties, but I can. Of course for me this isn’t as easy to access as photos at it involves video cassettes, VCRs, finding the remote to something you never use and then replacing its batteries but it’s still possible. However, for all those who’ve posted videos online, it takes no time at all for you to find your old video from 2006 and cringe over how terrible your hair looked. It’s not difficult at all for us to look back on ourselves and see what we were like a few years ago.

But it’s not just technology allowing us to keep momentos of ourselves that makes us more nostalgic, technology also allows us to revisit old childhood favourites. There’s just some TV shows that are so linked to our childhoods that watching them makes us think of ‘The Good Old Days’ and now we can keep on reliving those days. It’s possible to buy boxsets of many of these shows or to watch them on YouTube and we’re instantly transported back to sitting on our living room floors in the 70s/80s/90s. And yes, writing this has caused me to get caught in a YouTube loop of watching old children’s TV shows.

In fact, the internet in general is full of things that can make you feel nostalgic. There’s the constant lists of what life in the ’90s was like, I’m betting our great-grandparents never came across lists of how to know if you were an 1890s child: “You had a street party for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, You remember the first Olympic Games after its revival, You remember when the Merina Kingdom was a country”. But apart from the lists, the internet is just one great big archive of things from the past anyway.  There are things that when they first appeared on the internet were news but are now, thanks to the passage of time, something that we can look back on and think “Oh isn’t it so funny that we didn’t know back in 2007 that Barack Obama would be President?”

The Internet is also choc full of old documents so that we can reminisce on our relatives behalf. There are census records that we can access with just a few clicks of a mouse (no need to physically go down to the archives, you can print out your own copy in a few short minutes) and relive the life of great-great grandad Peter who we never even met.

Technology moves us forward in so many ways, it makes things easier for us, it can make life more enjoyable and it can give us access to such a wealth of current news and information that makes us better informed people.  However I also think that it makes us think about the past a lot more.  It lets us relive moments of personal and public history and allows us to create countless keepsakes and I definitely think that it makes us more nostalgic.

Featured image via ShutterStock

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