The Power of Nostalgia

I was in the middle of a much-needed emotional break from yesterday’s Denver-Dallas shootout (my fantasy matchup had five Broncos players between the two of us), when this Samsung Galaxy Gear commercial froze me mid-laundry folding. As it cycled through my childhood via sound bites from the Power Rangers, Inspector Gadget, and Star Trek, I was completely hooked. Maybe I’m just a sentimental 90s kid, evidenced by the multiple episodes of TaleSpin I watched on YouTube this weekend, but I thought Samsung’s appeal to our nostalgic side was pure genius.

It got me thinking about the power of nostalgia, and the role it plays in today’s obsession with the “now”. Twitter, push notifications, wearable technology – we constantly strive for the instantaneous. But at the same time, we place that much more value in looking back and memorializing our lives. One of my favorite apps is Timehop, a daily time capsule that shows your day today 1 year ago, 2 years ago, etc. My Timehop today showed me a restaurant I checked into on Foursquare last year, a couple self-loathing posts I wrote about the Jets on Twitter four years ago, and a charity event I helped organize in college seven years ago. I love kicking off my morning with some quality reminiscing time, and reading the yearly emotional rollercoaster of a Jets fan is always masochistically amusing.

Of course, I couldn’t use Timehop without services like Foursquare that chronicle my life on a daily basis. Quantified self apps are slowly entering the mainstream – Moves, Chronos, and even Google Now record every second of our day, leveraging the data to understand our lifestyle patterns.

This massive amount of data is yet another way for us to document our lives, motivated by the same reasons we take pictures on vacation or write blog posts and journals about our travels. In ten years I can look back on my day today and know that I walked 8,500 steps, ate at my favorite Singaporean restaurant with friends, and cheered on the USA national team at Jack Demsey’s. As we become increasingly intent on chronicling our lives instantaneously, we feed our nostalgic side even more, so our future selves can see exactly how awesome it was to be our 2013 selves!


  1. Matt says:

    The comment UI is decieving, I was expecting the comments to be at the bottom of the article, but looks like comments are above the title? You may want to see if you can move the comments to the appropriate postId in WP’s DB :)

  2. Steve Clancy says:

    I think that’s why I like the Flickr screen saver on my Apple TV. When I’m sitting at home doing nothing in front of the TV, I like the reminder of where I’ve been.

  3. dheerja says:

    Totally agreed on the comments UI, already had that on the list of updates – should be good now!

    @Harrigan definitely an Apple-esque ad, though don’t know if Apple could have done it better.

    @Matt wish I had thought to include sporting events here, major case for nostalgia. I miss Passport!

    @Steve also why we frame pictures, technology is just a blown up example!

  4. Aruna says:

    You should check out an app called “1 Second Everyday”. You take a 1 sec video clip every day, and at the end of the year, it merges them into a 6ish min video of your memories from the year!

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