In one the better examinations of the coming future, director Wim Wenders’ film UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD features a device that can record a person’s subconscious — more to the point, someone’s dreams, and discusses at length the “disease of images” as one of the protagonists becomes addicted to watching her own dreams, herself as a child. Introspection and nostalgia become her opiates of choice as she struggles to make sense of her life and her place in a world that could possible be erased (thanks to an Indian nuclear satellite spinning out of control just above the atmosphere). For a while, nothing exists for her other than watching a grainy video of her past self and even the threat of possibly losing her vision by using the device for too long does not stop her from watching the moving images over and over again.
I am reminded this movie and what being lost in the past does one’s spirit every Thursday when my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds are flooded with HASHTAG THROWBACK THURSDAY photos. Pictures of friends and colleagues as young children, running through sprinklers and whatever it is kids aged 2-6 do for maximum cuteness besides shit in their pants. Pictures with fellow sorority sisters from ten years ago, usually with the caption, “We look like babies!” Pictures from a Cancun vacation taken just three months before. Pictures from that time their hair was really good, and they must have really loved that particular hair day because they’ve used it for a HASHTAG THROWBACK THURSDAY at least three times in the past year like we wouldn’t notice their terrible, shallow need to be told they were socially acceptable looking at least once in their life.
Nostalgia is only interesting for people who have lived through that exact same moment in time; your friend who may have held the camera, your parents proud that you finally took the bucket off of your head. Introspection is only useful when it’s truly personal, inner reflection, not pushed out as an afterthought during yet another lunch break at your desk. HASHTAG THROWBACK THURSDAY is nothing more than superficial vanity and a desire for affirmation that can be had on the cheap through a series of digital thumbs, hearts and stars.
I don’t mind people who post pictures of their food, their pets, the sunset, ballgames, their children, their partners, their office, their manicure or even something they saw in the store that was stupid. That is fine, it is the world you are inhabiting at this moment. THIS MOMENT is interesting. I like seeing the world through other people’s eyes and I enjoy posting about what is going on in mine. We are a community and sharing the mundane is what helps get us over the hump to sharing the important, which is why the idea of “ambient awareness” of what is going on with family and friends isn’t frightening to me. It gets us past the small talk into real conversations faster. I don’t even mind selfie photos up to a point — although I am quick to judge the self-esteem of a person who regularly shares too many selfies, say more than 20% of their respective social media feeds.
But I say “fuck you” and your cherubic two-year-old cheeks, your high school photos, your adolescent friends and your good hair day. They are boring, uninteresting and unappealing. What is engaging are the experiences you are having right now, the person you are becoming as you inhabit the world we live in at this moment going forward, not who you were ten years ago. That person is already dead, why force your new self to continually, ritualistically stare at ghosts of the past? It’s a cruel, terrible thing to do to yourself. Is this moment in the universe so terribly unhappy that every Thursday we must take to social media and en masse remember a happier time, even if that happier time in reality was even shittier or even occurred just days before, thus in the development of one’s self not truly different at all from today?
Fuck your hashtag. Fuck your throwback. Fuck your Thursday.
Be interesting now.