History Repeats Itself, First as Tragedy, Second as Farce.
Within the ideological and user-generated construct of social media, Throwback Thursdays provide twenty-four hours of human retrospection. People charge up their plutonium-powered flux capacitors (“This is what makes time travel possible,” says Doc Brown; “What the hell is a gigawatt?” wonders Marty McFly) with nostalgia and, breaking the proverbial space-time barrier, travel back to an altar where unripe selves are offered as liberation rather than sacrifice. These digitized oblations—snapshots of ourselves as gawky kids or gangly adolescents, flashbacks to a time when we were more hopeful, less jaded, thinner—are brought to the present, restored, and thrown at the mercy of a jury of our peers on multiple platforms. The past is hashtagged, Instagrammed, and filtered accordingly. Boxfuls of old baby pictures are pilfered, dusty photo albums ransacked—presumably making the private public. But, as the interconnected global overlord of social media invades our past (Nihil sanctum est?
), are we revealing a sort of age-old avatar rather than an accurate depiction of our actual pasts? You will not see, for instance, the child in the projects putting himself to bed hungry. Thursday will neither throwback to the time your father lost his temper and dislocated your shoulder, nor that afternoon when your mom caught you masturbating. Certain past-selves will never be revealed, fellow Instagrammers, but the longer we tailor our memories for the #tbt masses, the less those memories belong to us.
But Thursday can be a baptism. We are gripped by the possibility of glorifying the past, engined as we are by the impermanence of all things, the dissolvability of a lifetime, and it’s only natural to not only want to hold on to the bygone, but to make it cute, funny, or at least palatable. Throwback Thursday grants us the opportunity to romanticize our former selves, to beautify our former faces. This newfound flexibility, this modern-day control over the aesthetics of our past, allows even the most tortured childhood to radiate as if it were new to this world. After all, sadness, neglect, and inadequacy don’t look so bad in Valencia.
We have—in a sense—become mere representations of ourselves, of course, humans by their very nature alter moments to their liking directly as they pass, in both mind and book—with rose-colored glasses and gelly roll pens—and this has not changed in the digital age. History is written by the living and the opposable-thumbed. Throwback Thursday, however, introduces a new realm of self-referential reaffirmation: We want our pasts to look cool, too. So, we direct the world toward a different starting point, a restarting point, a fresh past and a rebirth, baptized in #tbt’s redeeming tint.