JR: Americans are suffering from the death of nostalgia. We’re too connected through the landslide of social media, the ability to stay connected at all times, TV, YouTube, a constant barrage of information, and alerts to our phones, nevermind text messaging. The biggest crime against nostalgia has been commited by Facebook. There was a time when you communicated by letter or phone. That was it. Facebook has eliminated any shred of memory you might still be carrying around about a place or a person. You are brought up to date with everyone, all the time.
I went to a summer camp when I was a kid, and it was glorious – treehouses, one building with running water and electricity, and we bathed in a stream. I’ve gone most of my life not really knowing where my campmates ended up. And that was great. I still had this fable-like experience in my mind. Facebook cured that memory by connecting most of us. Does the memory still have bearing? There are events from my past – this camp especially – that I want to keep to myself, just enjoy them, and not tell anyone. I had a romantic memory of that place, and it’s been wiped away by Facebook.
People I went to high school with (a loathsome four years) have friended me on Facebook to tell me that they like toast and how they broke up with their hairdresser. I don’t care (I block them). But more importantly, I want to remember you and the place we were in as it was. Is that still possible?
College is the same way for me, a very formative time in my life, and Facebook has connected me to that group really well. But at our reunion I was much more impressed with everyone in person, just to see them, talk to them, hear them, and then the weekend was over, and somehow, our connection was still there. We have a group Facebook page, and I got home and posted, “That was the best weekend ever.” And everyone chimed in to agree. And you know what? It really was the best weekend ever. We had these memories that we hadn’t flushed out on Facebook, via pictures or whatever, and we still have that spark of the unknown.
In fiction, memory works really well for me, especially nostalgic memory, and I use it to fuel what I write. My thoughts, like my fiction, bounce around like a record needle skipping, and I write at different times of my characters’ lives, and touch on things that have meaning, not nessesarily in a linear order, much like life. Now that nostalgia is dead, can we possibly return to that place where we went the first time and have it be the same or better than it was? I’m asking a lot. I know. But should we just try to find new experiences instead of retreading the old? Or find new friends, which begs the question, how many friends do you need?
VU: For me, nostalgia is all about pop culture. Hearing “Smells like Teen Spirit” instantly transports me back to high school, and watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” makes me feel like I’m in the fifth grade all over again. We can’t rely on people for nostalgia because people change. They get old and fat and remind us that time is racing forward at an obscene pace. The only touchstones you can really count on are the music, movies, and books of your childhood.
Whenever I talk to my best friend, whom I’ve known since high school, we end up reminiscing about our adventures in college. The fact that we still know each other doesn’t diminish our affection for the past. At the same time, I understand how easily Facebook can bring your past into the present, which is just one of the reasons why I’m not on Facebook. I don’t want to be reconnected with old acquaintances from middle school or summer camp. I want the past to stay right where I left it. If any of those people were meant to be in my life, they already would be.
I heard a great story last month. This guy said that his father always used to ask him, “Do you know what day is the greatest day in the history of the world?” And the answer was always the same: “Today.”