In an internet era dominated by ‘evergreen’ content, it’s easy to encounter an article written years ago, but reshared in the present to generate views. It’s a format that instils in me a sense of déjà vu when I click on an article and half way through reading it, I remember that I’ve read it before.
It adds to the sense that we’re stuck in an endless present moment where things don’t age or die; they’re simply repurposed. It’s not too dissimilar to the constant re runs of sit coms on TV. Haven’t marketers heard of the old adage ‘familiarity breeds contempt’? You only have to look at the incensed comments on a Vice article that’s stuck on a constant loop, popping up in people’s Facebook feeds on a daily basis, to see that this practice alienates audiences.
A Noughties Comeback
I recently read an ID article titled ‘is it time for a noughties comeback?’ (their lowercase, not mine). And as I scrolled down I had that same feeling of déjà vu – I’d read it before. The piece contains some pop culture commentary, and it considers the idea of nostalgia, and the fact that it seems to be speeding up.
Grease was released in the ‘80s, mining its contemporary nostalgia for the ‘50s, a time period thirty years in the past. Now, we go to themed parties, some set in the ‘90s, some set as recently as 2006. It seems that nostalgia is in vogue, that we’re happier returning to a time in the past, rather than grappling with the present, or even considering the future.
Nostalgia is invoked when we feel a lack of something in the present, when we acknowledge that there’s something missing in our lives. We think that the antidote lies in revisiting a different time, a place where everything was better. Everyone has heard an old man say ‘back in my day.’ Well, we all embody that old man with our retrospective gaze.
Disenchanted with the Present Moment
But why are we so nostalgic? What’s wrong with the present moment? Is it because we can’t grasp what’s happening, that everything is changing far too quickly? In my mind at least the business of nostalgia has sped up, we’re sold retro clothing, vintage furniture, and our homes and lives are a bricolage of different time periods.
We’re lost in that cycle, where everything is reused and resold, often at a higher price, because it’s deemed authentic. There’s no history to the present moment, and I think we’re scared to consider our collective legacy. What will people in the future think when they look back at our contribution to the world? Our iphones, our computers, and our technologies aren’t built to last – is that why we want to return to a simpler time? Is our present moment too intangible, too transient?
Recycling, Repurposing, and Reliving
Perhaps it’s because our lives are so uncertain. We’re still not sure if we’ve survived the recession, Greece certainly didn’t, and our jobs, and our livelihoods are built on shaky ground. There’s safety in retrospect. After all, we survived the past, we made it into this moment, but the future isn’t guaranteed. If we could just return to the past with what we know now, we would have years ahead of us, time that’s preordained.
We’re stuck in an endless cycle. Late capitalism sells us images, it mines our collective histories, and originality becomes an increasingly alien concept. Most Hollywood blockbusters are remakes or sequels (Jurassic World, Bad Boys 3 & 4), new TV shows are following a similar sort of marketing strategy (Bates Motel, Daredevil, Gotham) and this retrospective trend is guaranteed to continue, perpetuating our difficulties with mindfulness, and living contentedly in the present moment.
Until we start contemplating the future, and thinking about where we’re headed, we’re doomed to be the generation of the echo, the people that lived in the past, because the present was too troubling.