Why are we so nostalgic for the technology from our past?

This decade has brought us advancements in facial recognition, augmented reality, broadband speeds, and autonomous driving. But as we approach the 2020s, we seem to be getting more nostalgic about old technology. 

In 2019, we have seen the comeback of the flip phone with the new Motorola Razr and apps that make your iPhone look like an old iPod. We are watching classic Disney movies and old-school Disney Channel TV shows thanks to Disney+. There’s even an entire mini-industry of retro gaming consoles stuffed with classic games.

Krystine Batcho, nostalgia expert and psychology professor at Le Moyne College, told Digital Trends that times of transition (like, perhaps, the ushering in of a new decade) trigger nostalgia, even technology-based nostalgia. 

“When you think about it, it’s an interesting paradox. Our culture has always been obsessed with progress; we have always been forward-looking,” she said. “Technology was never meant for nostalgia … it was never meant to be about the past, always about the present and the future.” 

Batcho said that people’s nostalgia typically centers on other people or relics of the past like photographs or diaries. But for the first time, our technology has almost become an extension of ourselves in that we are never really without it. 

“At a certain point, we were always the ones in control of the objects in our life,” she said. “With technology today and it being so smart, it makes us wonder if we’re starting to give over some control to the technology.” 

As a society, we’ve probably become too connected, which studies have shown can bring on more stress and anxiety to keep up with it all, so it’s no wonder we crave a time when we weren’t as connected — a time of less stress. 

Batcho said that we don’t really want flip phones over smartphones, or Polaroid cameras over our phone’s built-in camera, but that we want the memories that are attached to that old tech. 

“What we are craving in old tech is just reminders of what might be slipping away from us,” Batcho said.

Whether that’s the simplicity of coming home from school and logging into your MySpace or the group of close friends you had when each of you had a different color Motorola Razr, it’s not the tech we want, but rather, the simpler times. 

“We really don’t want our old tech back; we just want to have the fun of fantasizing about it and maybe playing with it for a while,” she said. 

Instead of longing for old tech or even looking to the future of tech, maybe it’s best that in 2020 we soak up the time with what we have, since one day we’ll be looking back at the iPhone 11 and the Nintendo Switch as markers of the past. 

[Photo: Eirik Solheim/Unsplash]

About Allison Matyus