Here’s the thing about me: I am really, really nostalgic, and one of the effects of this has always been that hearing songs from my past has a profound impact on me. I can often be whisked back to my youth in a moment and recall things that I haven’t thought about in years, just from the opening bars of an erstwhile forgotten tune.
But the internet is ruining it all. . . .
You see, back before the days of filesharing and high-speed downloading, the only way I’d hear a song like “Lips Like Sugar” or “Lovecats” was if KROQ were doing one of those ’80s Lunch Hours or something. I’d be driving around and one of those songs would come on the radio, and I would be instantly transported back to grade school or junior high, remembering old friends, old smells, old sights, old feelings.
But now that virtually all songs ever recorded are available to me instantly, not just through (out-dated) downloading but via Spotify, I have actually heard “Lips Like Sugar” and “Lovecats” more times in the last five years than I had in all the years since they were originally released.
Due to the ease of media consumption, we have lost both the ability to feel nostalgia and whimsy over past memories since they’re no longer rare or surprising, but we’ve also lost the collective sense of experiencing events together at a particular moment. Sure, our parents may remember where they were when they first saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, but other than sporting events, I never watch live TV (and even sporting events I usually DVR and watch later). Time has become flattened, or better stated, our timelines have become less linear and more pointed, like a line that is looked at head-on rather than from one side. And in addition to this, we have lost the social component that comes from experiencing events together, even if “together” means watching an event on television at the same time everyone else is watching it. Last time I experienced that was September 11, 2001. And that totally sucked.
Look, I use technology (although perhaps not to the degree that many do), so this is not some doomsday prophecy or jeremiad against popular culture and our consumption of media. I just think we need to stop and ask, before unhesitatingly embracing some new technology to which we will become addicted in nine minutes, whether such tech dignifies and humanizes us, or whether it serves to turn us into mindless and mouthbreathing idiots whose thoughts can’t extend beyond 140 characters.
Or something, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just sad that I’m not as nostalgic as I used to be back in the good old days.