When I do the treadmill in the little exercise room in our apartment building, I watch a couple episodes of Friends on my iPad. The only way I could be more basic is if I were doing this while drinking a pumpkin spice latte. But the show brings back good memories, including ones of the people I watched the show with (not all of whom are still on this earth.)

The Internet and technology have erased many barriers between the past and the present. Although there are some negative aspects of this, I think it’s one of the best and most amazing things about technology.

 

 

 

Many novelists and poets have written about the ways the past seeps into our present-day life. William Faulkner wrote,

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Now this quote comes from a brutal and tragic story, and I’m not only writing about serious things here.

Through social media, more people are documenting their lives in greater detail than ever before. Facebook’s “On This Day” function serves up posts from past years and reminds us of things we likely would’ve forgotten otherwise.

It can be painful for people to see these memories pop up: a vacation with the spouse who’s now an ex, or a picture of the company picnic before you got laid off. Or it can be bittersweet, featuring a pet or even a family member who’s passed on.

Sometimes, though, they bring us a little spike of joy. “Oh, yeah. I did that!” We might even grab our spouse or tag a friend to say, “Hey, look. Remember this? It seems like yesterday!”

And that’s why a lot of us use social media so heavily in the first place. It’s not only because we want everyone else to know what we’re doing (though there’s nothing wrong with that—I enjoy reading about the little things in other people’s lives.)

It’s also because it’s such an easy and convenient way to document our own lives and give us something to look back on later. (That’s the main reason that one of my 2019 resolutions is to post an Instagram photo every day.)

Occasionally, someone’s past on the Internet gets them into trouble. Their ill-advised jokes or off-color remarks resurface to embarrass them or even get them fired. But it’s a great thing to have such easy access to our past thoughts and conversations.

Social media isn’t the only technology that brings us closer to the past. Not only can we watch TV shows that have long since gone off the air (and many of us do—the U.S. version of The Office is one of Netflix’s top performers), but we can also revisit old music that crosses our minds more easily than ever.

Even clothes we wore in the past and toys we played with as a child may be within our reach. I’ve actually bought dresses on eBay that were the same dresses I wore ten or fifteen years ago. They had long since worn out or gotten damaged, but I missed them.

I know people who have paid more than they’d like to admit on eBay for toys they loved as children. Connecting with the best parts of the past has a high value for a lot of us.

I think it’s fantastic that we’re able to do these things.

 

 

 

Music or movies from past decades, old Facebook posts, and more, can remind us of our past selves. In some cases, we may look back at that person and realize how far we’ve come.

In other cases, we may look back at that person and realize he or she has something we’ve lost. Our past self may have been more carefree, more health-minded, more well-read, or whatever.

The good news is: that person is still within us. We haven’t lost him or her. We just have to let him or her emerge again.

 

photo of a laptop computer with blurry cheerful lights in the background

 

Does technology bring you closer to your past–in ways you appreciate, or sometimes, in ways you don’t? Share your perspective in the comments section below — I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading, and I hope this week, you make a great memory for your future self.