Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Is it even possible to create nostalgia in the social media age?

VH1 stuck gold in 2002 with I Love The ‘80s. It was pure, unfiltered nostalgia. I couldn’t get enough of it.

But television tested that. As did the Internet. And newspapers. And websites. And social media. And now I am overloaded with “nostalgia” on a literal daily basis.

I have reached the point where I am nostalgic for nostalgia.

Things reached a new low point when VH1 debuted I Love The 2000s in June 2014 – less than five years after the decade ended and only six years after VH1 already did nostalgia about the 2000s with I Love The New Millennium in 2008.

Think about this – it is 2014 and VH1 has already produced two hours of television of people waxing poetically about 2007, which is a year we can clearly remember in our heads. Unless we’re third-graders.

The nostalgia craze continued over the Independence Day weekend when NatGeo followed up its own series on the 1980’s with one on the 1990’s, the idiotically titled, “Last Great Decade?”

Just a month prior, CNN produced a look back at the Sixties because Lord knows if there’s a decade we haven’t learned enough about yet it’s the 1960’s. I wonder why no one watches CNN these days?

We live in an incredible age of technology and we should never take for granted. But nearly everything that has happened in the past 50 years – up to and including things that have happened in the past few weeks – have been dissected and discussed, ranked and debated, viewed and reviewed.

As events unfold, we are now putting them into historical context immediately in real-time on Twitter. I am guilty of it. Wednesday’s Brazil/Germany World Cup game may be remembered more for what it spawned on social media – the most tweeted about sporting event in history – than what actually took place on the pitch.

Because of this instant analysis, events are never allowed to ruminate in our minds.

Here’s my example – the 2005 Belmont Stakes is the most exciting moment of horse racing I’ve ever seen in my life. At the top of the stretch, Afleet Alex exploded by Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo with a simply breathtaking move. It was absolutely incredible. I watched an hour-long SportsCenter that night just for the 1-minute highlight. I did so the next morning.

And then the moment was gone, left to live only in my head. No Twitter, no Facebook, no way for me to relive or rehash this moment endlessly. In fact, I didn’t even see the race again until three years later when a hero put up an extended version of the race on YouTube. Not only was it an extended version, it was the NBC television coverage, which I had never seen, so I heard Tom Durkin’s absolutely classic call I was unable to hear on-track along with his perfect explanation of the race – “Jeremy Rose asked him to go…and he was going, going, gone.”

This year, I went to see California Chrome go for the Triple Crown. He failed and the entire event unfolded on social media for days afterward on social media. Especially when Chrome’s moronic owner opened his mouth and inserted his foot about the Triple Crown and we all jumped to our conclusions about the series.

More succinctly put, we have lost the benefit of time and perspective in our lives.

If we look west toward Hollywood, we see that stars, well, they never ever go away. In the music industry, the “one hit wonder” is a quaint notion because that “wonder” can parlay that success into a multitude of crappy reality shows or junk like I Love the 2000s.

Our big stars? They become trending topics on a daily basis for nearly anything. How can we ever be nostalgic for Justin Bieber’s Baby when we’re confronted with him every single day? If you don’t go away, nostalgia is impossible.

Our news cycle is currently constituted to churn through everything as quickly as possible, up to and including President Obama. We never enjoy anything anymore. The Lego Movie was released less than five months ago. It was awesome. Do you know anyone still talking about The Lego Movie? It’s always about the next blockbuster, which is opening next Friday, or the Friday after that, or the Friday…

LeBron James is the best basketball player on Earth and the greatest player since Michael Jordan. Do we ever truly take a moment to enjoy him? If we don’t enjoy what he brings to the game now, how are we going to do that in 10 years when VH1 is asking Lil Bow Wow how felt watching Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals?

There’s nothing to be done. Life has changed. We used to aspire to be great. Now we just aspire to be heard.

There is something nostalgic about the great William Nack pouring his heart out in Sports Illustrated about the passing of Secretariat.

There is nothing nostalgic about Colin Cowherd or Skip Bayless trolling people on Twitter.

Maybe it’s not social media that has ruined our ability to create nostalgia – maybe it’s us. 

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