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Technology has made it so much easier to access our nostalgic yearnings


The Impact of Technology on Nostalgia

There’s no doubt that if you are someone who enjoys a nostalgic stroll down memory lane, today’s technology has never made it easier. At the tip of your fingers, you can access pretty much any song, tv show clip, movie, or even old item that can stimulate countless memories of your youth and young adulthood.

So what has been the impact of technology on our experience of nostalgia ? 1 How has all of this access to the past impacted our understanding of ourselves?

man and woman working together on a computer

The Connection Between Nostalgia and Technology

There’s no question, as our access to the internet and technology has increased, we all have a much greater capacity to be nostalgic. Countless brands, TV Shows, and documentary series have capitalized on the fact that nostalgia magnetizes audiences. Websites like the Nostalgia Machine, the Museum of Endangered Sounds, and the Retro Site Ninja offer us ways to satisfy our appetite for nostalgic experiences.

At the same time that technology has made it so much easier to access our nostalgic yearnings or intentionally trigger them, psychologists have demonstrated that nostalgia plays a predominately beneficial role in the human psyche.

This is a reversal from what was previously thought when many assumed that reflecting on the past could induce negative effects. But of course, technology doesn’t only make it easier for us to seek out nostalgic experiences. Our social media accounts and easy access to high-quality recording devices make it possible for us to record and reflect upon our lives more than any other humans in history.

journal and pen

The Experience of Life-Loggers

How could this capacity to have instantly recorded evidence of any event in our lives affect us? Some interested scientists and researchers have been exploring that very question. Called life-loggers, these individuals take the time to record a huge number of minute details about their day to day lives.

While some think the practice weird or a violation of privacy, life-loggers report having a greater sense of how they are progressing through life and where they may have patterns that are not serving them well.

Life-loggers have documented both their lives and their experiences documenting their lives. 2 It can sometimes make your head spin. But for life-loggers, they have appreciated many benefits. Some life-loggers have trouble connecting with other people because they do not always pick up on social cues or remember experiences that they should have. They report that their recordings help them keep closer social connections with others.

The Potential Dangers of Technology and Nostalgic Experiences

But not everyone agrees that the ways technology has changed our relationship to our memories is positive. Some research does suggest that for individuals who are diagnosed with depression, nostalgic activities can lead to rumination. Rumination is a negative coping strategy where an individual becomes stuck in a mental loop reflecting upon a past event.

Because of the incredible new access we have into nostalgic experiences, some worry about the more negative effects of bathing in our memories. Some worry that we may become stuck in the past. Others think that if we spend too much time focusing on the past, we’ll have difficulty facing the challenges of the present.

man holding memory card

New Horizons on Memory, Nostalgic Experiences, and Technology

And yet, there’s plenty of research that suggests we can harness the power of our increased access to memories and nostalgia to cultivate higher levels of motivation and productivity in our lives. And regardless of whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, the reality is technology is making it easier than ever to keep track of your memories.

Another discovery neuroscience has made about human memory is how malleable it can be. Now biomedical engineers are wondering if we can harness technology’s capacity to store to data to improve the quality of our memories. The researchers have recognized the process of neural firings that code a short-term memory into long-term memory. Research with monkeys has shown that when computers record those neural firings and send them back into the monkey, they can demonstrate long-term memory recall—-even when they were drugged during the event.

This suggests that there may be a way to code our short-term memories as they appear, and then re-stimulate the brain to process short-term memory into long-term memory. It’s easy to see how technology like that could be incredibly useful. Some are even calling it a “backup” of your memory.

man using virtual reality

Virtual Reality, Technology, and Nostalgia

Another fascinating development in technological development and nostalgia is the advent of virtual reality. For many, virtual reality is a new frontier in the digital gaming world. Virtual reality gives users the experiences of watching a movie or video game in 3-D.

Virtual reality provides a new opportunity for developers: the ability to create a 3-D experience that is personalized. A researcher at NYU, Sarah Rothberg, created a very unique VR experience. Called Memory Place: My House, the VR has you entering rooms filled with her personal home videos, photographs, and even recreations of the particular flooring and walls of a childhood home.

As these technologies become more refined and more accessible to a wide audience, we can imagine a future where you could create VR experiences that are based on your personal memories. This could very well be a peak nostalgic experience!

Nostalgic Experience and Technology Moving Forward

With all of the new innovation in recording and sharing memories, technology is proving to have the potential to change our relationship to our memories forever. As we gather more information about the power of harnessing nostalgic experiences to make powerful changes in our lives, the future could be filled with the past—in a way that might just make us appreciate the present that much more.

Photo credits: nd3000/, KhakimullinAleksandr/, VelesStudio/, SFIOCRACHO/, Peshkova/

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