Banner View: Facebook causes us to cling to old experiences

Ian still plays in a metal band with his older brother. Stacey had a baby last fall. Katie posts more selfies than just about anyone I have ever seen.

All of these people went to high school with me, and I haven’t seen a single one of them since.

Facebook and other forms of social media cause us to cling to the past, and in doing so, make us believe rehashed old experiences trump new ones.

Nowadays, when you have time to kill, you will most likely log on to Facebook or Twitter to scroll between a handful of recent updates and the same damn ones you saw when you checked in earlier that day.

Unless some major event has happened, you will not likely encounter anything life-changing. (“Oh, snap! Jeff took a picture of that bagel he was talking about!”)

And even when something unexpected occurs, how deeply do your friends’ comments on, say, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death affect your own emotional response?

These moments between moments used to be the time when we would read books, go on strolls or finally take a stab at baking banana bread. Now, barring someone posting a thought-provoking article or a new song, those moments fall prey to the most pointless nostalgia possible.

I refer to checking friends’ ongoing status updates as nostalgia because the emotional reaction you desire from them comes not from reading about the myriad goings-on in their lives but from remembering the good times you spent with these people.

It may sound harmless on the surface, but it takes away time you could be using to make new friends and spend time with the maybe 15 close ones who would even be worth following with the kind of intensity Facebook allows.

The modern era encourages arrested development in many circumstances. Bloggers litter Tumblr with GIFs from ‘90s cartoons. Movie producers squeeze as many ticket sales as possible from reboots and remakes. Daft Punk wins the Grammy for Record of the Year for a song steeped in disco reminiscence as music critics discuss ongoing grunge and emo revivals.

As a culture, we treat nostalgia like alcoholics treat booze: “I can stop anytime I want to — I just don’t want to.”

Growing up means growing apart from people, which can be scary. Guaranteed experiences obviously feel safer than potentially unfulfilling ones. But we must not allow nostalgia to prevent us from seeking out anything new.

I recently found myself warming to Twitter, championing it as the superior social network to Facebook-weary friends. But I realize the only major difference comes from the way I use Twitter. I follow writers I admire, news sources I trust and record labels which sign bands that excite me.

I still waste plenty of time, of course, and still maintain a Facebook page where I engage in all the sins I railed against above. But I actively try to ask myself, “How much does this experience actually enrich my life?” I merely suggest you do the same, and maybe we all will begin devoting less of our lives to nostalgia.

If you really feel the urge to check up on people you have not seen since high school, you can always go to the reunion.

 

 

 

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