Nowadays I remembered things constantly; I panned, I grubbed, I fished, I lunged for recollections with a net; I plundered my own thoughts as recklessly as any oil baron ramming his way through pristine landscapes, convinced there would always be more. – Egan, Look at Me
It’s Gone, All Gone is a three part investigation of the many instances of critical abuses of nostalgia. Specifically, I’ll be looking at how critically engaging something as an object of nostalgia is itself a nostalgic mode of thinking. Today: Social Media and Nostalgia. Later: Part 3 on Simon Reynolds and Retromania. If you haven’t already, read the Introduction and Part 1: Instagram and the Faux-Vintage Photograph
Last spring, Tina Fey paid a visit to the Google complex in Mountain View, California as part of Google’s Authors series. Ostensibly there to promote her new book Bossy Pants, the conversation tended (unsurprisingly) to revolve around technology. The most interesting moment of the entire conversation was Fey’s aside about scrolling through her iPhone’s photo album:
I look back, if I go through my phone and there’s these weird chunks of time where it’s, like – because I have, like, 4,000 pictures on my phone. And it’ll be, like, pictures of us at SNL doing the Sarah Palin thing, and then taking her to her first day of preschool, and then going to the Emmy’s. And then there’s things on the table. And then coming back. The phone is a good way to see what…you’re really actually doing in your life.
It’s a simple point, but a good one. In effect, an iPhone photo album is a reverse-chronological, continually updating, personal timeline that she always has with her. Human beings are alright at remembering individual “chunks of time,” but they are tremendously bad at organizing multiple chunks into an intelligible narrative. For example, I have vivid memories of my sister’s graduation party and my brother’s birthday party, which happened around the same time, but I couldn’t tell you which happened first. As Fey says, “The phone is a good way to see what…you’re really actually doing in your life.” Read the rest of this entry »