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One Tall Voice: ‘Instant Nostalgia’ gilds recent events

Published: October 5, 2007
Section: Opinions


It is said that people gild the past, and, to an extent, this is true. The eight hour drive to Johns Hopkins is an amazing adventure now, but as I was experiencing it, it was a claustrophobic, annoying affair that sucked the time right out of my life. My summer at the day camp seems like a funny escapade as I look back on the event, but as I was working there, I would have liked to have been at any other place. Our generation doesnt just gild the past, but tends to remember things that happened very recently with a sentiment of fondness and satisfaction. Shows on television recount that this week was the best week ever, as the program has comedians happily discuss the happenings of the past week. People will think with fondness of songs that were popular only two summers ago and believe that those were the good old days when It Was Hot or My Humps reigned supreme. Perhaps the biggest medium of this instant nostalgia is Facebook, where people post videos and pictures as if preserving them for posterity. Whether it is because we cant handle the present or look to the past as a time of satisfaction, our generation is obsessed with the notion of instant nostalgia.

Television is a huge creator of this phenomenon. It seems that television stations like VH1 or E! and others devote themselves entirely to the subject of gilding things that happened in the recent past. E!, for instance, will have the 100 biggest moments on the red carpet so that people in the present can feel nostalgic about when Britney Spears shaved her head or Snoop Dogg acted in some women-hating way. The shows Best Week Ever, Best Month Ever and of course Best Year Ever also seem to reinforce this notion. They relate the funny and weird things that have happened recently so that countless viewers can laugh and feel warm about recent happenings. Even shows like I Love the 90s reinforce this notion. They have trivia, relate funny stories, and generally gild the decade where Waynes World and Ace of Base reigned supreme. These programs are disgusting. They keep the viewer firmly planted in the superficial happenings of the past rather than focusing on the present or future. I dont care if Jolt cola was the coolest thing ever;

we dont have to make programs that gild things that only happened a few years ago.

Facebook is one of the primary vehicles of instant nostalgia. The photos feature allows people to post pictures of mundane events and boring occurrences just to save them for posterity. People want to record their college years in the form of a digital reality and feel warm about the times of the past. People are proud of their photo collections, happy with the amount of pictures that adorn their profile. And I believe that this is an extension of the instant nostalgia principle. Things that happened only weeks or months ago are now preserved and remembered for all time. But, by and large, these events are just random occurrences that give people an uncanny satisfaction when viewed. The ability to record so many aspects of our lives on Facebook and other websites extends instant nostalgia as it allows people to preserve events and remember the recent memories of the past.

It is also interesting to note the fact that people tend to classify music and movies that were released only recently as classic. I was watching a classic movie station one time and was upset to see the movie Independence Day on the station. The movie came out in 1996 for crying out loud. How can you put that in the same category as Casablanca or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Furthermore, I was listening to a classics radio station and was astonished to hear the horrendous tunes of Ace of Base playing in my car. Similarly, how can this rotten band be compared with the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? It is preposterous to classify these recent creations as classic. Instant nostalgia is evident as people like to look on the previous decade with longing and feel satisfied that this crappy music is being remembered for posterity. So I beg you all to think the next time you watch a rotten TV show that feeds off of viewers sentiments about the recent past. I hope that next time you take a picture just for Facebook that you think of the absurdity of this phenomenon. And please rebel against this movement to make classics out of media from our own lifetimestherere supposed to remain in the eras of our parents and grandparents. Yes, we tend to gild the past. Of course we think of recent occurrences with a sense of satisfaction. And I just think its funny that we are putting on the pedestal the horrendous hairdos and sickening music of the 1990s in the process.