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TBT – A Trip Down Memory Lane

There are days in the year that I feel a longing for days gone by – a childhood spent swimming in a river with adventurous friends, a basketball game making shots amidst a thundering applause from the bleachers, or our first family jaunt to Europe visiting museums full of rare treasures.

Although I am not an overly sentimental person, I want to reminisce about my childhood, my teaching days, old friends, past family trips, even some youthful indiscretions, and all sorts of events that bring back happy memories.

With my reminiscing comes the feeling of nostalgia. I feel nostalgic when I remember my childhood, my former students and co-teachers at the Ateneo de Davao, friends I have not seen for years, and the excitement of traveling together with my daughters when they were younger.

To relive the past, I flip through the pages of our family photo albums filled with precious mementoes. Sometimes I would laugh over old photos. But, in most cases, the photos remind me of past connections I had with certain people or events. The sad part is that the past can no longer be relived at the moment.

That I cannot bring myself back in time is a horrible feeling. The closest that I can get to the past is by recapturing those memories; for example, by looking at a photo of me in 1974 driving toward the basket and making a lay-up or looking at another photo of me in 2006, with my daughters and wife, at St. Peter’s Square waiting for Pope Benedict XVI to bless us.

David Newman, lead author of a research in University of Southern California that studies nostalgia, posits that people are generally likely to feel nostalgic when things are going wrong in the present. He observed that people feel nostalgic when they are stressed, depressed and lonely; express more regret and rumination; less satisfied with life; and have low self-esteem.

I am not one of those that Newman described in his studies.

When I feel a longing for those bygone days, it’s because I want to feel connected with the people or events that, at one point, had a positive impact in my life. And it feels good. It does not make me young again. But it lifts my spirit and it brightens my day.

Constantine Sedikides, a psychologist at the University of Southampton in England, found in his studies that “nostalgia boosted self-continuity by increasing a sense of social connectedness. Sentimental recollections often include loved ones, which can remind us of a social web that extends across people – and across time.”

And this brings me to TBT that I got hooked into for quite sometime now.

The popularity of TBT or Throwback Thursday, an internet trend in social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook that encourages people to share their favorite memories, is a testament to the power of nostalgia.

I’ve seen so many TBTs on Facebook on a daily basis: a yearbook photo of a family member on graduation day; a wedding picture where the groom was wearing bell bottom pants; a photo of a Catholic cathedral, with a Romanesque style, before it was painted black. The photos are mostly from a different era of the person posting them.

I myself have posted on Facebook several TBT photos. Truth to tell, I sometimes hesitate to post picture-perfect memories of me or my family because once they are in social media they become public properties of sorts. People can do about anything with them – good or bad.

Another source of my hesitancy is people might not like them – perhaps for a good reason – and they may make comments that I will consider uncalled for or simply rude.

But I also get a good feeling when I post TBT photos on Facebook. Photos I post usually attract attention from people I don’t even know. They either like them or make comments about them that serve as a strong catalyst for me to share more past photos, even if they only matter to me.

Since I am not a psychologist – and to understand myself better – I searched online to look for an explanation for my avocation.

In his vlog that appeared in Paragraft last December, Danny Aspinall wrote that nostalgia “… also contributes to an improved sense of social connectivity. Nostalgia can combat feelings of loneliness through the power of shared recall. By emphasising a feeling or memory, you’re indicating to your audience that you too remember X - creating a sentimental sense of community that transports you from the empty Footloose warehouse to the middle of the dancefloor.”

Madison Miller, in his article Throwback to the Future, quoted Heather Mangelsdorf, a psychology professor, who describes nostalgia as a useful psychological tool that helps mental health.

“[Nostalgic posts] can counteract loneliness. There’s lots of science on what it means to be lonely,” said Mangelsdorf. “It’s not objectively how many people you interact with but it’s a perception of feeling lonely… by using nostalgia and thinking back when they did have this support it can help reduce loneliness.”

She continued, “It feels like we are in a state of turmoil, especially these last couple of years. I don’t think I’m alone in that perception. We are in a time that feels more insecure and more of that existential threat idea...if we are more nostalgic than other generations in the past then maybe that’s why. We need that positive boost from nostalgia, that sense of groundedness.”

For me, the operative words for Aspinall are “social connectivity” and for Mangelsdorf, “sense of groundedness.”

So, nostalgic memories allow us to be connected to our past and make us understand and appreciate what matters, even as simple things as sharing memorable photos from way back. Isn’t that wonderful?

That makes nostalgic memories worth sharing, not just on a Thursday, but any day of the week. No wonder many people are obsessed with TBT, and for good reason.

What a fun way to remember the good old days.


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