1. A sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
2. The evocation of these feelings or tendencies (esp. in commercialized form).
So that’s what the dictionary says. What it may fail to point out is that nostalgia does positively connote a happy memory. It is a positive word, and is rarely used in a derogative context. If something reminds us of a previous event a long ago, and we hate the memory, ‘nostalgia’ probably isn’t the word we’d use to describe the experience.
Go onto Youtube or Google and type in the word, and the guy you will likely find will be this guy:
Funny that ‘nostalgia’ can make people feel happy enough to watch so many episodes. This is just one example of how nostalgia applies to the modern day (and if the above link sounds like your cup of tea, check out the ‘AVGN’ for game-related nostalgia of a similar style!)
Why do we like nostalgia? Why is it represented as a positive value? Simply, it would refer to a time when we were younger. We usually like to remember when we were younger, as ‘back then’ we were more innocent. In contrast, perhaps we were having more action-packed lives during our youth – more sex, more drinks, more drugs, more travelling, more experiences, more fun. Apparently the best years of your life pass by when you are young. Personally, I disagree with this statement though – if the best years have gone, we don’t have much to live for in the future, thus putting nostalgia in with a negative denotation.
I recently liked a video on Youtube from an artist called Gabrielle, whose music my mum used to play in the car when we went for days out. They remind me of my childhood, which is about as far back as nostalgia can possibly go for any one individual person. Yet, nostalgia can be relevant up to only a few years back (as a lot can happen in a short period of time). This song is now dated, yet probably brings a certain nostalgia to just about every student on my course:
Nostalgia can inform the future, but only to a certain degree. Nostalgia is not a case of finding inspiration in the past. It is purely just remembering the way things were, and looking at them in the most basic form. It is appreciating the past for what is was and still is, and knowing that it was simply a moment in time that brought happiness – a type of happiness that will probably never be experienced again.