Think back to early 2020. So far today, you woke up at around 10am, and afterwards you made yourself some green smoothie which you saw in your Instagram suggested. You managed to do the Joe wicks workout, so you then treat yourself to an iced coffee. You then finally settle down and get on with a bit of work. You plan to have yet another chill evening in, you know, go for your one walk a day, watch a bit of tv and oh yes, make some of that banana bread that everyone has been banging on about. Then you suddenly remember that it is a Thursday, meaning it is once again “clap for carers”, so you feel as you may as well get involved. This time feels like so long ago now, almost nostalgic. But why I’m earth do we reminisce over it, and almost think about the time in a somewhat positive light- when really we literally were not able to socialise or do any of the things which we usually enjoyed?
Early 2020 as a “trend”
The early days of 2020 have been a subculture on TikTok for a while now. This is something which began as early as October 2020, yet I have certainly noticed the way in which it has continued throughout. For instance, a lot of the songs that were popular at the time have reemerged. However, if you are sensible enough not to have TikTok, you may be feeling a little confused now, because it is not like this excitement is being spread all over other platforms. Although, this makes sense considering that TikTok is popular with young people meaning they would be the people whom the pandemic impacted the largest chunk of their lives, the people who would have had most time to spend on TikTok then anyhow, and the people who use TikTok the most…
So what is so special about the Pandemic?
One reason why so many are expressing nostalgia, is because the struggles faced were collective struggles. All of us were impacted by not being able to do the things we usually take for granted, and all of us were concerned with what was going on around us, be it the number of deaths each day, or the question of whether exams would still be on. Nevertheless, as we began to leave lockdown later that year, it most certainly did not mean that everyone could have a big party and forget about the whole thing. Rather, we again had to face the real world, but time of uncertainty. This way, it would be a rather scary period for anyone to be in. Leading on from this, according to the atlantic, the pandemic’s historical significance may have triggered anticipatory nostalgia, which refers to a sense of nostalgia for the present before it has passed. This makes sense considering that the stages of lockdown moved on so fast, and it was such a unique time. Nostalgia also holds a good and strong focus on the community, where according to image journal, when we can see that others share our affinity for the past, and that we locate common values there, we gain a language for our contemporary communities. This can be seen from how there were events that communities shared, like clap for carers, and because all people in communities were going through the same challenges, it is unsurprising that the early pandemic is something which some feel nostalgic for now.
Nonetheless, at least in my experience, the common feeling of nostalgia for the pandemic is not shared around wherever you go, in fact I am not sure if I have even mentioned it this week! Yet, I find that if I end up having a conversation with neighbours or friends back at home, this will generally come up. Most likely because this was an experience shared between us at that time. Another community in itself which will share nostalgia is TikTok. Therefore, of course TikTok takes on nostalgia for the pandemic, especially considering that the people who would have spent the longest amount of time on TikTok during that period would be around the same age, therefore would have had remarkably similar experiences of the pandemic and they would relate most to the trends on TikTok at that time.
Is Nostalgia good or bad?
According to vice, nostalgia in itself isn’t something that is positive or negative, but it depends on what you do with it. If activated in a non constructive way, then it can lead to romanticising the past while being blind to the negative aspects of it, meanwhile if used in a constructive way, it can “remind people of a certain moment, while keeping them open to absorbing new experiences.” In relation to the pandemic, this makes sense in that if people only romanticise the good elements and refuse to talk about the downfalls of it, it could potentially lead people to underestimate the negative aspects and the significant amount of damage that it caused. However, if it is taken constructively, then people could consider the negative aspects as well and then consider the way the pandemic proved that there are important changes which need to be made. I know that on TikTok people are only looking at dances, iced coffee, and banana bread. But if this causes people to consider the impacts of the pandemic in their own time, then this seems like a something which is fun but constructive. However, if it leads to people overly romanticising the pandemic, I personally find it concerning as firstly it could upset people who had a negative experience of the pandemic, and it could lead to people almost yearning for a lifestyle like how it was during that time.
Finally, it is understandable why some may have nostalgia for the pandemic. And while really it is too early to judge, I would say that overall nostalgia relating to the pandemic has not really been positive or negative. For a start, I do not think that younger teenagers waffling on about banana bread and iced coffee is having much of an impact. I mean, I hope that most of them would still want to go outside, and if they do not, this is part to blame. But largely it would be the pandemic itself and the internet. Moreover, while you do hear people chatting away on the news about the pandemic, and while they probably do suggest changes which could be made, nothing positive has happened yet really; at least not in the UK. Nonetheless, you can always hope that something could improve in the future.