The Power of Nostalgia

Dec 31, 2018 · Unlisted

Originally published on October 7, 2013.

I was in the middle of a much-needed emotional break from yesterday’s Denver-Dallas shootout (my fantasy matchup had five Broncos players between the two of us), when this Samsung Galaxy Gear commercial froze me mid-laundry folding. As it cycled through my childhood via sound bites from the Power Rangers, Inspector Gadget, and Star Trek, I was completely hooked. Maybe I’m just a sentimental 90s kid, evidenced by the multiple episodes of TaleSpin I watched on YouTube this weekend, but I thought Samsung’s appeal to our nostalgic side was pure genius.

It got me thinking about the power of nostalgia, and the role it plays in today’s obsession with the “now”. Twitter, push notifications, wearable technology — we constantly strive for the instantaneous. But at the same time, we place that much more value in looking back and memorializing our lives. One of my favorite apps is Timehop, a daily time capsule that shows your day today 1 year ago, 2 years ago, etc. My Timehop today showed me a restaurant I checked into on Foursquare last year, a couple self-loathing posts I wrote about the Jets on Twitter four years ago, and a charity event I helped organize in college seven years ago. I love kicking off my morning with some quality reminiscing time, and reading the yearly emotional rollercoaster of a Jets fan is always masochistically amusing.

Of course, I couldn’t use Timehop without services like Foursquare that chronicle my life on a daily basis. Quantified self apps are slowly entering the mainstream — Moves, Chronos, and even Google Now record every second of our day, leveraging the data to understand our lifestyle patterns.

This massive amount of data is yet another way for us to document our lives, motivated by the same reasons we take pictures on vacation or write blog posts and journals about our travels. In ten years I can look back on my day today and know that I walked 8,500 steps, ate at my favorite Singaporean restaurant with friends, and cheered on the USA national team at Jack Demsey’s. As we become increasingly intent on chronicling our lives instantaneously, we feed our nostalgic side even more, so our future selves can see exactly how awesome it was to be our 2013 selves!

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