NintiesAnxiety on Instagram, ILoveBritneySpears1234 on TikTok and DDoniolValcroze on Twitter. Three accounts that embrace, directly or indirectly, culture of the past on an online format. There are thousands of other online accounts and forums that do the same thing. Sentimentalize, romanticize and even fetishize the past. The most glamorous and beautiful moments, looks and ideals are on display. Pop culture moments everyone forgot, highlighted. Footage formerly unseen, now viewed by thousands. The past, in these photos, make everyone look shiny and new. There’s constant nostalgia for times before social media was ever-present. Romanticizing or obsessing over the past is often associated with being unable to move forward or develop. Accounts like these reject these ideas and embrace culture prior to what is normal today.
Before the invent of the internet and computers, when people wanted to reference the past, they had to buy magazines, books or posters. They had to go out and find a vintage Vogue, or an old movie or an old record. From there, they’d understand how people dressed, acted and looked. Culture was less self-referential and less self-aware because people didn’t have old stuff to reference. There were no posts made back then to reflect the good ol’ days. People’s memories stored their nostalgia. Spheres of influence couldn’t be physically seen like they are today with followers. Culture was not as pick-and-choose as it is today. Back then, culture was what was available on screen or in print.
Today, everything is self-aware or self-referential to some degree. We are aware of virtually everything in the past. It is easy to go on a streaming service and watch a rare or old movie. Streaming services offer to the audience a huge variety of films from different eras they can comment on and watch. Seeing how people lived, looked and acted 50 years ago is easier than ever. It’s just as easy to integrate these dynamics into our lives, today. Magazines are widely available online. We no longer have to search research libraries or antique book shops for timeless issues of Vanity Fair or Vogue. Many magazines are available to read online. We’ve made a nostalgia industry. Reading material, as well, is available online and for free. Finding a New Yorker article from 40 years past or a rare book for 100 years past is a click away.
We’re now more than ever aware of what fashion, culture and speech was like before the present. We’re more than ever able to recreate it or pay homage to it. Maybe this is a restraint on personal creativity. With cultural hyper-awareness, where is there space to develop original thought, content and inspiration? If other influences bombard creatives, not just from the present but the past, it would be near impossible to come up with ideas formed in a vacuum.
While inspiration has always been present, influence has never before been more present. Even when people are unaware of it, the past if constantly referenced in culture. Movies are pumping out sequels or spin offs more and more, for the last 15 years. Casual and runway fashion is obsessed with the years past. Music more now than ever samples previous tracks. We’re have more nostalgia than ever. More than ever we long for the past, if only because we are so aware of it. Images online of people having fun and living normally seem foreign and thus idyllic compared to modern life.
Nostalgia in Blogs
Perhaps these blogs are another leg of the niche of modern culture and a microcosm of the culture today. We’re so aware of past culture that its become part of online culture. These accounts show the pure, undoctered content. The constant references to the past in media – on TV shows and movies, in fashion and in politics and society – creates a longing for the past in the viewer. They want to see what the hints of culture today are referencing. In reality, the content is more pure and realistic than it is when imitated. They see small hints of what the ‘80s was like in a show like Stranger Things. When looking for or stumbling upon the actual thing, people see the original inspiration and feel a sense of authenticity. While the show was an imitation, the original has a realness about it that brings out nostalgia.
Countless people getl nostalgia or form nostalgia for a time that they didn’t even live in based on these blogs’ content. The lack of dimension that is inherent in photographs makes it so easy to project our own lives onto them. It’s easy to see your own friends in pictures of people from the past. It’s easy to confuse pictures from the past as being simplistic or better than the present. We project fantasy onto the past. It’s easy to look at the past and say how happy you’d be, was life that simple. In reality, these people are just the same as people today.
Accounts like these also offer historical commentary on pop culture of the past. Countless accounts have discussed what celebrities were like and politics of the past. Accounts dedicated to retro fashion will discuss the inspiration and creation of these projects. People will dress up how people did from different decades, wearing authentic clothing. A lot of nostalgia accounts don’t just post footage, but also analysis of the media they’re portraying. It’s not just for nostalgia’s sake, but a genuine interest in culture and recent history. The influence past culture has on present media is undeniable and by spreading it, we’re making it accessabile to everyone.
Featured Image by Girl With Red Hat for UNSPLASH.COM