The past is PResent

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Yes, 20-somethings…this Alice is a guy

I went to a rock concert last night.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend this show to everybody. It’s not likely to appeal to most people under 50. Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and Edgar Winter were hugely successful acts in the 1970s, and they performed an ear-splitting orgy of power chords, screaming guitars and memorable anthems. Deep Purple and Alice provided much of the soundtrack of my teens, and it was really cool (!) to see them live on stage.

Nostalgic events were a big part of my summer. Just three weeks ago I attended my 40th high school reunion and it was terrific fun playing catch-up with old classmates. A week later I attended a sold-out Billy Joel concert at Chicago’s Wrigley Field; Joel hasn’t recorded new pop music in 24 years.

Why does it happen that as we age, nostalgia becomes increasingly important? Surely a typical 20-year old has few nostalgic feelings, yet by age 30 they start to miss what they enjoyed a decade earlier.

Dr. Constantine Sedikides, a psychologist at the University of Southampton in England, published a research paper in 2015 noting that “nostalgia boost(s) self-continuity by increasing a sense of social connectedness.” “Retro-themed entertainment feeds into our tendency to reflect back on the positive events that shaped our sense of who we are now,” wrote Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne in Psychology Today. “They also reinforce our sense of identity. The late teens and early 20s are the time when we first take a serious look at forming our sense of identity. The music, movies, TV shows, books, and clothing of that time become a part of who we are. Without memory, we would have no identity.”

The past is always present in our lives. It’s important for communicators and PR practitioners to use nostalgic references in their content and storytelling to connect with target audiences. And for anyone under 50, you’ll probably know Deep Purple by their biggest hit, “Smoke on the Water,” and you’ve definitely heard Alice Cooper’s June anthem, “School’s Out.” Billy Joel? Well, nostalgia and age aside, he still draws audiences that span several generations, including 20-somethings. Your thoughts?

One thought on “The past is PResent

  1. Patrick Picarsic

    Back in the days of non-internet juke boxes, and limited selections, a patron at a local drinking establishment was well-served to select “Child in Time.” At just over 10 minutes, that quarter was maximized. While not an appropriate sing-along, that didn’t stop many an intoxicated patron from singing the third round of “ooooooohhhhhoooaaaaahhhhhaaaaooooo…”


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