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Keeping Love Alive: The Power of Digital Nostalgia in Relationships

Introduction


Overall, digital nostalgia is an emerging concept that reveals yet another fascinating need to further investigate the intersection of technology and romantic relationships. With the creation of digital artifacts, individuals can capture and save meaningful moments, creating memories that last forever. Past research shows that this process has the potential to benefit romantic partners as they reflect on their relationship in a more meaningful way. While technology's impact on relationships is not always positive and highlights important concerns regarding the overuse of digital artifacts, we strongly believe that there are endless possibilities for individuals to create and use technology in a way that fosters romantic connection and relationship satisfaction.


Nostalgia and Romantic Relationships 


Research shows that when individuals experience romantic nostalgia, the process of looking back positively on experiences with a significant other, they tend to feel more connected, optimistic about the future, and committed to staying together (2). Delving into romantic nostalgia not only promotes relationship well-being but also serves as a powerful tool to sustain emotional bonds and happiness through shared memories. Thus, individuals can significantly benefit from leveraging digital nostalgia to enrich their romantic relationships.


Black & White Polaroids on a Vintage Background

Data on the Current Digital Era


The exploration of digital nostalgia is still in its early stages, yet research is already starting to reveal some fascinating data!


In one past study, researchers created a system they called “Echo”, where individuals recorded themselves reflecting on their day and then later listened to their recordings. The goal was to investigate “Technology mediated memory” (TMM), which is how through devices like smartphones and computers, we can digitally capture and store memories, shaping our emotional connection to them (3). 64 people used the program and produced over 3200 recordings and reflections. The results showed that creating recordings of their days as digital artifacts encouraged them to speak more positively about what happened. On top of that, when they went back to listen to their recordings, the participants generally felt good about their past experiences based on their original positive recordings (3). This study emphasizes the importance of digital artifacts in encouraging individuals to be more optimistic, reflecting on their lives through a more positive lens.


Technology mediated memory (TMM) Rating of Day from Recordings

One common way digital artifacts are made for digital nostalgia is through picture taking. Today, we can easily use smartphones to capture special moments in our lives. People worldwide take approximately 1.81 trillion photos each year. That's about 57,000 photos per second (5). While there's no evidence to show that taking pictures helps you remember the moment better (6), there are positive feelings associated with reminiscing about the past (3). Even if the specifics are not remembered, the feelings that can arise are enough to create positive feelings from reminiscing. 


So, why should this information matter to you? Data can be overwhelming and hard to know what to do with. However, if you can understand the data, you can make better choices to help your emotional wellbeing, and in turn your romantic relationships. Technology has been shown to help with the sense making process (7). These technological benefits can especially help in romantic relationships.


Conceptualizing Digital Nostalgia


It has long been known that technology has an undeniable effect on romantic relationships (1). However, the existence of digital nostalgia and its impact on romantic relationships is a more recently understood part of technological influence. Nowadays, technology offers constant access to the past and has created opportunities for us to look back in time at digital records of our lives through TMM (3). An example of this is when couples are able to take pictures together on romantic dates, which later act as personal mementos from their special time together. With this, technology becomes a catalyst for shaping memory development in emotionally impactful ways within romantic relationships.


How many photos are taken worldwide yearly?

While digital nostalgia has positive impacts, it also introduces complexities. The use of digital artifacts may lead to individuals developing mixed feelings about technology's role in their partnerships. As beneficial as technology can be, it can also become a hindrance to human connection. It seems that modern daters, especially, have a tendency to focus a little too much on preserving the moment, rather than living in it. This has led to an increased desire for authenticity in romantic relationships (4). Some prefer the past, when partners had to be fully present, using all five senses to commit an experience to memory as best as they could (1). Current research highlights these common behaviors of modern daters. However, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Older generations faced distractions from their relationship as well such as busy work schedules, living long distances, and physical media like newspapers and magazines (4). There are many influences that can impact the way couples connect. It's important to study the factors impacting relationships today such as digital artifacts and understand what adverse effects need to be managed for the wellbeing of one's romantic relationship.


Conclusion


Overall, digital nostalgia is an emerging concept that is currently influencing romantic relationships. To expand on past research, further investigation on the intersection of technology and nostalgia in romantic relationships needs to happen. The creation of digital artifacts helps individuals capture and save memories that can later be looked back on in a meaningful way. This process has the potential for beneficial impacts on romantic relationships based on past knowledge on the influence of nostalgia on romantic relationships. While public perception of technology being used in romantic relationships is not always positive, the possibilities for technology to be used to improve relational satisfaction are endless as long as individuals make choices that contribute positively to their romantic connections. 


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Bibliography


  1. Nayal, A., Matthews, A., & Evans, M. (2023, October 30). Technology & relationships: A Two-decade study on interactions and effects. https://www.flamme.app/technology-relationships-a-two-decade-study-on-interactions-and-effects.

  2. Evans, N. D., Juhl, J., Hepper, E. G., Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., & Fetterman, A. K. (2022). Romantic nostalgia as a resource for healthy relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 39(7), 2181-2206. https://doi.org/10.1177/02654075221075773.

  3. Konrad, A., Isaacs, E., & Whittaker, S. (2016). Technology-mediated memory: is technology altering our memories and interfering with well-being?. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 23(4), 1-29.

  4. Dalessandro, C. (2018). Internet Intimacy: Authenticity and Longing in the Relationships of Millennial Young Adults. Sociological Perspectives, 61(4), 626-641. https://doi.org/10.1177/0731121417753381.

  5.  Broz, M. (2023, October 31). How many photos are there? (Statistics & Trends in 2023). Photutorial. https://photutorial.com/photos-statistics/.

  6. Mills, A. J. (2021). The big picture: How the acts of taking and viewing photos can influence memory (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy). University of Otago. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10523/12089.

  7. Hollis, V., Konrad, A., Springer, A., Antoun, M., Antoun, C., Martin, R., & Whittaker, S. (2017). What Does All This Data Mean for My Future Mood? Actionable Analytics and Targeted Reflection for Emotional Well-Being. Human-computer Interaction, 32(5-6), 208-267.


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