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The need for nostalgia

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

With a scary present and an uncertain future it is no wonder people are looking backward.

Although retro and nostalgia are ever-present in our society there is a particular spike in 'yester' today.

Source: Pedestrian TV

Logically speaking, this makes a lot of sense. As professor of Psychology, Krystine Batcho puts it: "'Life as we knew it a month ago might never return in the same form,' ...'We really do yearn to, if nothing else, be able to visit that past.' This current bout of nostalgia is borne of many of the traditional triggers including boredom, loneliness, feelings of meaninglessness and reminders of our own mortality. Although nostalgia was once thought to be purely negative, Batcho was one of a group of experts in the 90s that argued for some of the benefits of the feeling as a "self-soothing tool for adapting to discontinuity".

Whilst Tiger King and Normal People might be emerging narratives, we are also seeing a big return to TV classics. People are spending more time watching old favourites on their streaming platform of choice, with shows like The Office being one of the most watched at the moment. At the same time fans are able to delight in new old content as their favourite characters from TV history unite for special episodes, table reads or even Zoom weddings, including the likes of Community, The Office, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Parks and Recreation.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, music from our past is also proven to be extremely comforting, but not all memories are created the same. Although we all have varying appetites for seeking out new music, most of us have a big soft spot for songs of the past. Music from formative periods in our lives can act as a trigger to take us straight back to moments, sometimes for life. As one Vice article explains, it has been found that even babies can form these associations from birth, and that music from teenage years and our early twenties has the strongest effect in this way: "They call this period the 'reminiscence bump', when human beings retain more memories than they will during any other life phases".

As live sport has been taken off our screens around the world, people are returning to historic games to get their hit. In the UK the BBC have been airing a summer of sporting Nostalgia whilst the AFL broadcasts classic moments and matches. As the Toyko Olympics have of course been postponed some are calling for the airing of the iconic 2000 Sydney Olympics instead as it hits it's 20th anniversary; "It was the most exciting thing I’d ever lived through. The air was electric with anticipation. Every man and their dog was wearing one of those garish rain jackets, working as a volunteer. I was fighting with my sister over who kept which Syd, Millie and Olly pin from the Sydney Morning Herald".

Of course the fond look backwards can also be found in our online lives too, the throwbacks have risen as people have nothing that interesting to post from their living room, bedroom or backyard. People aren't just posting old photos but taking joy from their teenage opinions and aesthetics: “'We’re seeing posts literally float to the surface from 10 years ago,'” says Cortney Kerans, the head of communications at Tumblr."

Interestingly it seems that nostalgia may actually arise in faster periods than it once did, due to the churn of our current digitised world; 'Though traditional thinking suggests nostalgia arrives in 20-year cycles (Grease in the ’70s,Dazed and Confused in the ’90s), our “art-absorption metabolisms have been sped up by the web, which often feels like a borderless 24-hour culture klatch, full of nonstop pop-convos about The Stuff We Love.' Now, 20 years is far too long to wait to rediscover old favorites, hence, the mid-aughts revivalism he was writing about then."

The good news is that nostalgia has also been thought to add meaning to your life, as you fondly look back on moments that added significance. Whether you've spent the last few months watching the Sopranos, posting photos from your emo phase or dreaming of your next Pollywaffle, just remember that these times may well make for fond future flashbacks.

Zara Cooper


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