Nostalgia: how remnants of the past influence society

Bianca R., Staff Writer

Whether it is a specific scent or sound that reminds one of the past, we’ve all experienced the feeling of nostalgia, the sentimental longing for a past in which we associate with happy memories. 

Nostalgia can be seen in numerous aspects of our lives in places such as media, literature, and business.

Art is a prime example of nostalgia. From books and paintings, to poetry and music, the inspiration and wistfulness is evident. 

“Today, the world that we’re currently living in where we have many restrictions, we’re longing for a past when things seemed better; where it seemed like we had more freedoms and maybe a time of more innocence. A prime example of nostalgia in literature is a book you will read in eleventh grade – The Great Gatsby, where Gatsby is longing for his time that he had with Daisy, in the past. He builds it up to be more than it was. But, this longing, this dream to go back and recapture that moment is a definite piece of classical literature,” said Etchings Club adviser Joy Docherty.

Nostalgia can be seen in Commack through students’ creations. This year, the Etchings Literary Magazine Club is featuring several poems and short stories created by students inspired by the concept of nostalgia. Docherty discusses some of the most prominent aspects of nostalgia in students’ writings and how artists in the past served as inspiration.  

“I’m seeing a lot of ‘60s and ‘70s [in the students’ writing]. The ‘60s was definitely a time of rebellion. Artists, specifically musical artists, voicing their opinions on how the world can change for the better. I see a lot of things in the ‘90s too. There was that grunge period where musicians or artists were dissatisfied with life, and they, again, were going ‘how could things be better?’… I think that every generation has this vocal group that just wants to make things better or what they perceive can be better. What can be improved upon in our culture and these prominent time periods of the ‘60s and the ‘90s were revolutionary in this sort of way,” said Docherty.   

Nostalgia may have an influence on the business world. A major impact of this concept is evident in consumer behavior. An individual’s buying habits, including social trends, frequency patterns, and background factors that impact their decisions to buy something.

“[Nostalgia is] how we feel about products that remind us of our childhood. It’s that heartwarming feeling. I think when we feel good about things, it brings back a special feeling – whether it’s candy or an ice cream flavor. We’re more apt to buy it when it’s not in our normal purchasing pattern. But, it also opens your eyes to considering new products based upon how we feel. I think it’s more [in] the smaller things that nostalgia comes into play. Think about it: they make the candy boxes or cards for the year you were born. Think about monopoly and how many different versions there are. It’s the play on the nostalgia of all the different generations as time goes on,” said business teacher Carolyn Milano. 

Business advertisements also use nostalgia as a marketing strategy to target consumers and persuade them to buy specific products. Milano highlights some of the main strategies used by advertisers.

“I think a lot of [nostalgia comes from] commercials… Super Bowl commercials are a perfect example. They [often] pair a movie with a product for the target market it represents. I think the seasonal holidays – the seasonal candles or girl scout cookies were such a treat when we were kids. And now, they bring out thin mint ice cream,” said Milano. 

Nostalgia can even have an impact on small businesses in the local community.

“[I also feel] nostalgic about supporting small businesses. Because I grew up in a time where there were more mom and pop shops, it makes you realize that as time goes on, if you don’t support them, then they’re not going to exist. So, my thought process is: go to the places that make you feel good about your purchase. Use them to buy your products and services from, because they are a big part of the local community. So, it’s really important to do things like that,” said Milano.

In addition to small businesses and advertisements, nostalgia impacts brand loyalty and can be fueled by social media.

“I feel loyalty to some of the brands… I do think it’s getting harder though for companies to hold that loyalty with social media. I feel like when you’re fed all these brand-new Instagram companies, they are starting to take over the market share of these larger companies because of the direct instant relationship that these smaller companies provide you with. So, I think it’s getting a little bit harder for companies to really cultivate that loyalty today,” said business teacher Erin Mascaro. 

As we navigate through this world of business, with overwhelming amounts of new trends and products heavily inspired by nostalgia, consumers may begin to consider whether or not nostalgia is beneficial. 

“I think [nostalgia is] positive because things are getting so expensive and the disposable income is decreasing so you really need to see the value in what you’re buying, not only economically but psychologically,” said Milano.        

From business trends to students’ writings, nostalgia isn’t going away anytime soon. 

“I feel like the ‘90s are coming back. You’re seeing the Doc Martens, the flannel shirts, the bright neon colors, and that’s all the ‘90s coming back. It all comes full circle. It’s pretty cool how the decades come back in their own twist for that time period,” said Mascaro. 

When looking at current trends, remnants of the past still remain. 

“What’s old is new again,” said Milano. 🔳