Humanity hasn’t invented a time machine yet — I’d have already stopped Billy Mays from OD’ing on coke if it had. Long live the Pitchman King. But we came pretty close this year, and it wasn’t a quantum physicist who brought us one step closer to bending the time-space continuum.
It was God himself, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg.
In creating Facebook’s Timeline feature, Zuck did us all a grand disservice. Superficial changes aside — which everyone needs to cool their jets about; you’ll eventually get used to it — he has done something unimaginably worse.
In essence, the Timeline has killed nostalgia.
Nostalgia as we knew it was already a shell of its pre-Digital Age self. I mean, let’s be real. Do you think that twinge we get when we hear the Pokemon theme song compares to that feeling our parents or grandparents would get upon hearing a 45 of The Beatles or Elvis? I went to a Paul McCartney concert with my mom last July and I can tell you that she felt something that night I definitely never have.
For the sake of this argument, let’s concede that the feeling we get when memories of our past permeate our senses through pictures, songs and even tastes is, in fact, “nostalgia.” So every once in a while, we whip out a middle school yearbook, look through an old family photo album, listen to “Hey Leonardo” by Blessid Union of Souls, rehash what life was like in the 20th century and call the whole experience an emotional bout of nostalgia. Cool.
But at what point does it stop being nostalgia? When does the occasional trip down memory lane instead become disappointment with the way your life currently is? When do you start just feeding your incessant need to dwell on the past?
Nostalgia and social media obey simple economic rules. Social networks, particularly the Timeline, have given us so many outlets to be nostalgic that the value of it has diminished to almost nothing. With a few clicks, you’re at your junior prom, on your eighth grade trip to Boston or celebrating your Sweet 16.
Now, this argument assumes two things: you care as deeply as I do about the state of nostalgia and you spend every waking minute on Facebook looking at pictures from your past, yearning to live vicariously through a slightly younger version of yourself.
I’m going to guess neither one really applies to you, so I have two things to tell you going forward. First, don’t spend every waking minute on Facebook Timeline looking at pictures from your past, yearning to live vicariously through a slightly younger version of yourself. Those kind of antics don’t look good on anyone.
Appreciate who you are and acknowledge the road you took to get here, but don’t let your life now play second fiddle to the life you once had … you know, three years ago. Hate Facebook for diminishing the value of your memory, not for its superficial drawbacks.
And second, go ahead and care a little more deeply about the state of nostalgia. It is a powerful thing, and with only 20 or so years on this Earth so far, we take it for granted. Facebook isn’t giving us a new, unique way to access that feeling. It’s giving us so much overload of our past that we’re becoming desensitized to the people we once were. The value of looking at old pictures, or listening to old songs, is quickly shrinking.
If you examine its Greek roots, part of the word nostalgia can be translated as “pain” or “ache.” The Timeline is, in a way, making you sick with relics from your past. Don’t let it. Keep nostalgia sacred and appreciate the life you live now. It isn’t so bad.