I have participated in Throwback Thursday (#tbt or #throwbackthursday, depending on your hashtagging preferences) and Flashback Friday (again, #fbf or #flashbackfriday) a grand total of three times. Coincidentally, all three photos happened to be from concerts. My motivation for today’s photo stemmed from the facts that I found it in my Camera Roll, thought it was cool, and realized that I had never shared it.
As I tapped the “Share” button on my photo this morning (a really awesome photo of the Arctic Monkeys at the Staples Center in August), I realized just how weird posting old photos on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram really is. If social media is supposed to be documenting the here and now, why are we all obsessed with throw- and flashbacks? What is it out to prove?
Like any budding journalist, I went to the Internet.
After scrolling through the first few pages of 19,000,000 search hits, I realized something important that was staring me right in the face.
Good old postmodernism strikes again.
Over 265 million Instagram posts with one variation of the hashtag is somewhat alarming. Does today feel so bad that we need a weekly reminder that the past was better?
Society really enjoys nostalgia because in one sense, it reminds us all of the past and “the way things used to be.” Fredric Jameson, who wrote a very dense but good book about postmodernism and the cultural logic of late capitalism, also said that nostalgia “directs our attention to what is a culturally far more generalized manifestation of the process in commercial art and taste.” He was talking about retro films, but I think it applies here too. We’re conveying the “pastness,” even if the photo was taken two or three days ago, through sharing photos that are “old” to us. Instagram has made an already accessible art form even easier, and being able to share pieces of personal history means something to us. One day, the idea of a Instagram photo will probably seem very nostalgic. Someone might already be thinking that.
And, being able to post old photos seems to prove that the moment actually happened in a world of ephemeral messages. A “like” from someone is not just an affirmation that you took a good photo or you’ve done something cool — it’s part of a social context where the people you know, via a tap or a click, acknowledge you and believe that you actually did whatever the photo is saying you did.
What do you think about Throwback Thursday? Let’s talk about it in the comments.
P.S. I couldn’t find any cultural criticism on Throwback Thursday, which was a little surprising. If you know of any good articles, feel free to share them!