The Danger of Nostalgia

nos·tal·gia

näˈstaljə,nəˈstaljə/

noun

a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Everybody is nostalgic for something. For me it’s Dunkaroos, a discontinued 90’s snack that used to come in my packed middle school lunch every day. For my mom it’s The Brady Bunch and for my dad it’s Pink Floyd.

Nostalgia is powerful. It has the ability to instantly bond two people that have never met but had the same experience. However, nostalgia is not always wholesome and pure and in fact can be quite dangerous.

We are currently living in a sort of transitional period in regards to books, reading and how we get our information. Online news as well as e-books have left their mark in recent years as popular news sources, rising as a “challenger” for printed books. In response to that, there is a campaign led by an older generation that claims that printed books are the best and only way to receive any information.

This campaign is fueled by nostalgia and fear of change. Just because something was once a big part of your life and brought you great memories and joy does not mean it cannot be improved on for the future generations. That being said, as there are with most things there are positives and negatives to the new ways in which information can be obtained.

Positively we can learn whatever we want whenever we want and wherever we want to learn it. We have information at our fingertips; no trip to the bookstore or library required. You can listen to a podcast while you make dinner or listen to an e-book while you drive to work. The accessibility of information has never been easier.

On the negative side our attention spans may be suffering as a result of the break neck speed in which we can now receive our information. The article How To Remember What You Read states that,

“The more active readers read, the better they get… They learn to differentiate good arguments and structure from bad ones. They make better decisions because they know what fits with the basic structures of how the world works. They avoid problems.”

We will cherry pick an article for its most prevalent information and ignore the rest of it. Less and less people in today’s world would probably enjoy the long story format of a printed book.

Call me an optimist but I think that the short format in which we receive our news is great and I believe the positives outweigh the negatives. Not everybody has time to read a full length article but they can read a tweet from CNN on their 15 minute lunch break and then read the longer piece when they get home if they please. Why does that sound like such a bad thing? Technological advancements are often seen as unnecessary to the older generation and I’ve defiantly heard my share of “back in my days” when I try to explain iPhone functions to my grandparents.

I invite those “back in my day”-ers to remove your rose colored glasses for a moment. Think about how you used to get your news or learn something new. You might think that re-reading the only informational textbook available was the best way to learn something or waiting for your morning paper to hit your doorstep was the most reliable way to get news, but the reality is that it was your only option. If you want to learn something today there are millions of YouTube videos ready to teach you how and if you want your news you can get minute by minute updates on your phone.

In an article written by Michael Harris he states that,

“Online life makes into a different kind of reader- a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention- and thus my experience- fractures.”

While I do think Michael has merit in this thought I also feel like the thought itself is reflective of the kind of reader he claims to have become- cynical. Perhaps the cynical nature our current news cycle is what is giving Michael this melancholic feeling because I personally cannot agree with him.

There will always be change and yes, that change will probably always make us feel old, but it would be ignorant of us to ignore the future and try to hold on to the past. I don’t want to tell you what to do without doing it first myself so I’ll start. As I type this I just looked up the nutrition facts for Dunkaroos and found that they have 13g of sugar per serving, which is more than half of my daily-recommended amount of sugar. Just like that I removed my dangerous nostalgia and understood why I had so many cavities as a child, and will think twice about if I want to have them again in the future. I implore each of you to let go of what you thought was great in the past (books/ newspapers/ dunkaroos), think long and hard about if it really did you any good and maybe try something new, you might make an improvement you never knew you needed..

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