Digital Nostalgia: Friend or Foe?

At the age of 33 I feel I’ve reached an age where I have become nostalgic about the way things used to be. Growing up, I would listen to my grandparents, parents and other adults talk about the ‘good old days’ when of course everything was better! But I quickly learned that the past is a time that you can look back with hindsight, rose-tinted spectacles and also judge without the stress, worries or cares that perhaps were prevalent at the time.

I’m lucky. I’ve grown up in a generation parallel to some incredible technology advances. The internet, mobile technology and the creation of social media in particular. When it comes to technology, I am fairly savvy and interested. I am also the first the fly the ‘social media flag’ in discussions surrounding nostalgia and the future. After all, having shared experiences with people all over the world, many of whom you’ve never met is amazing and I genuinely feel that when it comes to being social, the more the merrier! We all share our fun experiences and important news online. We send tweets, update Facebook and show off our photographs on Instagram. They create wonderful memories for us and they remain there, documenting a ‘story’ of our life.

I like memories. The good and also the not so good. I am not one for regrets because I know my decisions, choices and memories shape who I am today. But just recently I have began to question my love for over-sharing my life online. The internet has been around long enough now for us to be reminisce digitally, creating ‘digital nostalgia’. The creation of applications such as Timehop and My Shoebox have made this super easy, each day you can head to the app or even choose have each memory emailed straight to your inbox- giving you your daily dose of ‘Oh wow! Look at us crazy cats eight years ago on holiday in Malia! We look SOOO young (and thin..)’ and so on.. The apps then allow us to re-share the photographs on social media so we can re-live the experience with our friends all over again.

In February this year I signed up to Timehop and My Shoebox. I thought it would be fun to see what happened on this day one, two, three, four and so on years ago and I was also grateful of the extra storage facilities! Timehop tells us as we download the application ‘Welcome to a time capsule of you- we will help you celebrate the best moments of your past with friends’ But will it? It’s no secret that in the last year my life changed forever. I made the decision to go it alone by ending my almost five years of marriage and of course it’s had a huge effect on all our lives. Within a few days of downloading the apps I was inundated with emails and alerts on my phone. Photographs of past family days out from the last few years, filled to the brim with obvious happiness and joy. I will not lie, it was heartbreaking but also nice to be reminded of the happy times we spent as a family; and for those times I will always be thankful. It was great to share these memories with the kids, I also had many laughs with friends attempting to play detective, working out old cryptic Facebook statuses and cringing at old photographs!

After a few months, the 8th May came around. A reminder of my hen party- five years previous.. (OUCH). Again, this was fun to see, it was a great weekend and a failed marriage cannot and will never take that away from me. It was a weekend with great friends all together in one place and the memories of that weekend are wonderful ones (despite being dressed as a flamingo for most of it..).

Then the big one hit. The 30th May. Our Wedding anniversary! Not only was I greeted that morning with alerts from various websites wishing me ‘HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!’ I was also subjected to an email montage of our most popular wedding status updates and photographs. It was heart wrenching. I have had to grieve my marriage, the loss of sharing my life with Dave and in turn coping with placing the marriage into the memory box, rather than being the current situation. I realised right then, digital nostalgia is both a friend and foe.

Being sent reminders sporadically isn’t ideal. But what’s the alternative? Not use these apps at all? Delete the memories physically from Facebook, fool and trick Timehop into not knowing that these massive events in our lives didn’t exist? After all I have removed all the physical remnants of the wedding from my home, because it’s just not appropriate to keep those photographs hanging but what is the answer in a digital sense, should we just cope or ignore and know that each year it will likely become less raw and dramatic? It must be far worse when it comes to death. The loss of a loved one coupled with daily reminders of updates, photographs and memories. A stab in the heart each time, or maybe now it’s all part of an accepted healing process that digital nostalgia brings us? Either way, it’s a new phenomenon and it’s here to stay, so I suppose the choice is there- delete the apps, avoid social media or ride it out.

On a personal level I’m in a really happy place at the moment, but it doesn’t mean I want my past relationships pushed in my face. I still think it’s useful to look back though, to smile and remember, to see how far we’ve come, to remind us how much our children have grown and celebrate our successes so I won’t be deleting events from my social media accounts or this blog. But from now on for me the viewing of these apps will only be a glance. Nostalgia will drive me forward, not back. Memories are great but I prefer to be busy making new ones after all I want to have something else to feel nostalgic about in five years time.. 




  1. says

    What a beautiful post Michelle. I have often wondered how different my Time Hop would be if our photos were digitised (?!) when we were younger; for instance the memories of my late mum I know I would find really painful to see. However, mostly I am like you and don’t see the point in regrets. x

  2. says

    I get a bit cross when people post tons of time hops and how many days til Christmas. Why can’t they just enjoy today! I mean, there are memories I want to share, and things I’m looking forward to…but really!
    I wish you joy in this new part of your life.

  3. says

    Fab post Michelle, I know there’s a few things that I wouldn’t want reminding of from past years on Facebook. I’ve never actually managed to use Timehop or My Shoebox properly because i’m on Windows Phone which basically supports no apps but if and when I switch to Android I’m sure I’ll be using them along with everyone else. I do find it bizarre the way some of my FB friends post ALL of their Timehops every day, I think I’d use it to remember the significant, rather than the mundane. Today’s mundane is more than enough for me! Lovely to see you at the weekend too xx

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