Disclaimer: I’m not bringing in any psychological theories or anything like that for this article. I’m just thinking out loud here, starting a discussion. Cool? Cool.
Picture this: you’re a little bored during the week - maybe one evening you’ve come back from school - and it’s almost the weekend, say, Thursday, so you’ve no huge pressing matters to attend to. You check online. Your Instagram (or any other social media account) is looking a little bare. Now, obviously, you’re the average, ‘follow’-craving human being who feeds on the attention of total strangers across the information highway, so what do you do?
You go back through your past - distant or otherwise - find something cute or funny, add some nondescript filter to add just a little edginess to set you apart from the crowd, and upload it to Instagram. Don’t forget to hashtag though: #throwbackthursday, #tbt, and #lol are all essential. Duh. Now sit back, relax, return to your non-filtered life outside of social media, and watch the likes roll in.
So why do we take part in “Throwback Thursday”? For those who don’t know, it involves finding something from your past - usually a photo on Instagram or Twitter, but it can be a status update on Facebook, or anything in-between - and posting it online. The question is, why do we feel the need to dig up our past? Social media already makes life more instant, with news passing around the world in mere minutes; in an era where we’re so up-to-date at all times, we seem to be looking over our shoulders an awful lot.
Often, we post very young photos of us to show others how cute we once were. Maybe it’s more than that, though: maybe we want to show people our roots, where we’ve come from to get to where we are now. Either we’ve come from a worse place in the past, or we’ve just been an adorable child. We want people to look at us and think, ‘Wow, they’ve come so far, good for them!’ Alternatively, it could be that we have something to prove to ourselves. Perhaps there’s a self-evaluation aspect to Throwback Thursday: at present; anyone on the internet can become a celebrity, so it wouldn’t surprise me if our online presence had begun to affect our self-esteem. When a YouTube star posts a video of themselves reacting to their older work, it is cringeworthy and funny, but also does show evolution and progress. Perhaps we need proof that we’re really going somewhere in life. I once heard that a selfie is “the version of you that you want others to see”. Poignant, but true.
Or perhaps it’s less upbeat than that. The past is, of course, full of memories, and we take pictures to capture happy moments in time. It could be that people post old photos in order to remember these memories, fondly or otherwise. Yes, it is likely that most of the time people will be looking back and grinning at how much fun they had. But what if they aren’t smiling? What if they’re posting photos to remember a better time, when they were happier? When someone they loved was still in their life? We can’t be sure, but rose-tinted spectacles can be very easily applied now that we can add any number of colour filters to our memories online. It’s a nasty thought, but it’s a possibility. People are often criticised for being upset on social media, but sometimes it just cannot be stopped. Sometimes people need a place to put their thoughts, outside of their heads, and their blog/Twitter/etcetera is where they turn to. Occasionally, you get videos on YouTube where a normally cheery, colourful vlogger (that’s the technical term) is in a bad state: there’s no fancy editing, no fun ukulele music. There’s just a human being, confessing to being scared, or upset, or down, or any number of things. It’s very jarring - imagine yourself in that position.
Here’s my own personal throwback for you all
- my two elder sisters and I as little rascals.
Perhaps throwing back to a time when
exam stress was but a tiny blip on the horizon…!
This article didn’t really have an argument to make, or anything to prove. Hell, I barely planned it out, I just sat and typed and decided to see what happened. Mirroring the very internet I’ve been talking about, this feels like a very instantaneous and stream-of-consciousness-style piece of writing. Anyone can say pretty much anything on the web these days. What started with a (hopefully) fairly funny introduction has ended looking at how sad people can get.
And that’s just it. Things online, like YouTube videos, Twitter feeds, tumblr posts, can always be funny, but be aware that there is always something deeper. There’s always someone hitting those keys and clicking that mouse, on the other side of the screen. And at any moment, they could feel down. Maybe they turn to a #throwbackthursday post on Instagram. Of course, I’m not saying that this article is gospel for “how to treat people online” or anything - we shouldn’t read too far into matters all the time! However, it is wise to remember that things aren’t always as they seem, especially online.
So maybe next time you’re finding a cute old photo to put up online, ask yourself: what exactly am I throwing back to?