Yesterday, through the wonders of modern technology, my best friend from second grade and I were able to travel back to 1984. Four years ago I had found an old home movie of us and shared it on her Facebook timeline. Then yesterday, the popular “On This Day” app reminded her of it, and she shared it back.
I was waiting in the car with Teghan when the notification came in, and we watched it together. It wasn’t easy to explain. Did she know what I meant when I said that was me? Is she able to easily put together that I used to be little like her, and that this video was taken many years ago? I’m never sure. Time is one of the most difficult concepts to describe effectively. But she seemed entertained.
In 1984 I was about the same age as my daughter is now. The video shows two friends putting on a show for the camera. We cannot take our eyes off of our own images appearing on the TV, and we are especially thrilled with the novelty of my dad turning the camera to “negative” mode.
This was cutting-edge technology. Not every family had a video camera. We also had a cutting-edge dial phone, cable TV was not yet available in our area, and our first home computer wouldn’t arrive for another six years. The little girl in that video played Intellivision and dreamed of one day owning a pedal car. A month later she would spend all of her birthday money on a Dukes of Hazzard General Lee toy car, because she had a crush on Bo Duke. She also had a crush on Ricky Schroeder. (Incidentally, this would mark the end of crushes on boys with blonde hair.)
Movies I saw in the theater that year included: Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Splash, Romancing the Stone, Top Secret!, and The Muppets Take Manhattan.
(The small theatre where I saw most of them, pictured at right.)
TV memories: The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Kate & Allie, Newhart, Dallas… And of course, those boys from Hazzard County. My parents recorded Saturday Night Live and Late Night with David Letterman, so I never missed episodes of those, either.
Now go ahead and Google the top 100 songs of 1984. The nostalgia actually hurts.
When I remember my childhood, 1984 reigns supreme as the year my brain took the most detailed notes. But why? Was it my age? Was it because we moved that year? Maybe it was because my sister was born that December. I have no idea. But what I do know is that Teghan’s current experiences will stay with her forever.
What will her 2016 soundtrack sound like? Unlike me, she does not share a bedroom with a thirteen-year-old sister who listens to top 40 music 24/7. And where I have memories of weekly sitcoms, she spends weekends enduring mom and dad’s current Netflix binge. She lives in a world where videos of herself are an everyday thing, photos can be viewed and edited instantly, and telephone conversations can not only be moved beyond the kitchen—they have become the least-used function of the telephone.
I don’t know how all of it will affect her nostalgia for 2016. I suspect after enough time passes, she will begin to think fondly of the things that no longer exist in her world the same way I occasionally want a pudding pop. She will remember the places we go and the people we see for a lifetime. Maybe in her old age someone will bring her back to the park she goes to every day across the street and she will feel overwhelmed with memories. But it will have changed, if it is even there at all.
Don’t we all have places like that?
It’s different to have visual access to a point in time. I can see a memory from 1984. I also have a video of my dad walking the trails behind the first house I lived in. I am sure it seemed like a silly thing in the 80s to take such boring footage, but a huge amount of my early childhood took place on those trails. I haven’t walked them since we moved in 1984—and seeing them again, just as they looked in my memory, is a gift.
Meanwhile, Teghan is creating more footage of her childhood than she could ever know what to do with. She obsesses over her photos and videos, writing them down in permanent ink on her subconscious. Fifty years from now she will be able to see them and still feel whatever she feels today—even if she hasn’t felt it in fifty years.
But beyond memories, technology has given her apps that help her to communicate, and she has access to endless videos that have helped her to understand the world around her. Technology gives her options that will change her whole future.
It can be controversial, but I embrace technology. Could our digital lives lead to a world where our past is re-written and our every move known and held against us? Well, I don’t think every familiar plot leads to the same end, any more than I believe every familiar road leads home. And unlike many critics, I believe technology brings us closer together.
I know there are people who would be gone from my life completely if not for Facebook. Without it, I would have no idea whatever happened to my friend from second grade, and she certainly wouldn’t be sharing an old video with me. Social media participation forces us to connect on at least some level. We are addicted to it only because we long to stay connected.
Technology offers a method of communication for every personality type. A handful of you are reading this from the other side of the world. I have worldwide access to other families with kids like mine. And, it is just one more way to document our history. I mean—what if I could see a Facebook status from 1984?
What a strange time to be alive.