& other times you looked hot…
Every Thursday a battle on social media ensues. On the surface it is an endearing competition among friends for who was the cutest child. However, on a deeper level it becomes a battle of your pasts. Who had the best experiences, the hottest friends or even the best bodies. This parading of one’s history, and often times… not so distant history, is all found under two common hashtags- #tbt and #throwbackthursday.
Don’t get me wrong, I love nothing more than a cute baby photo. An iconic American scene portrayed often in media is having your parents take out the old photo album and embarrass you in front of friends or a significant other. Meet the Parents, anyone?
So when did we decide that we should start sharing these photos of ourselves on a weekly basis? This digital trend is so popular that #tbt is the most used hashtag on Instagram. On Instagram there are currently 90,091,071 posts with the hashtag #tbt and 30 million using #ThrowBackThursday. The hashtag itself may be the most annoying part of the trend. So you want to share an old photo? Great. But why just on Thursday? Luckily for me, tweeters and ‘grammers have a solution to this as well… #FlashBackFriday.
However my rant aside and looking past the annoyance that is #tbt and #FlashBackFriday, these social media trends display the universal desire for people to be connected and united online, all following a common practice that harbors a sense of nostalgia.
In the video, An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube, Michael Wesch discusses YouTube as a space for people to come together in an interactive, participatory way. By posting videos to YouTube, people are able to respond and reply, forming an online community. A medium like Instagram has less of the affordances to interact, and through hashtags and trends such as Throwback Thursday, people are able to create that same sense of interactive consumption. Videos are fast ways to ignite emotions in the viewers, especially those of nostalgia. This same longing for another time is present every time #tbt is posted. It puts you in the precise moment of someone’s happiest memories, giving the viewer an intensely intimate look into the poster’s life. While I am intrigued by the authenticity that may have started this trend, it seems to have shifted into something much more materialistic and shallow than when it first became popular in 2012.
One of the reasons #throwbackthursday bothers me is because of what it is today- an excuse to post hot photos of yourself under the illusion that you are participating in a popular trend. What was once a look into a distant time of one’s life, is now a look into a very specific and very select moment… and let’s face it, nothing is being “thrown back” at all.
A common abuser of the loosely termed “throwbacks” is Kim Kardashian. Kim has 18 million followers on Twitter, and 9 million followers on Instagram, numbers that prove she may be perpetuating the popularity of my pet peeve all on her own. In one Thursday alone Kim posted 6 #tbt photos.
Looking more at the psychology of these posts, the content speaks volumes about what point she is trying to get across to her audience.
Kardashian during her pregnancy posted throwbacks every Thursday of her modeling before she got pregnant. Kim got a lot of negative attention for her weight during her pregnancy and she seemed to use Thursday’s as an opportunity to validate herself to the world. It is awful for a woman to be criticized about her body, especially while pregnant, so her insecurity is understandable.
What bothers me is that the need for online approval is problematic of a much larger issue. Social Media users commonly exploit #ThrowBackThursday as a way to get praise from their followers, especially during times of vulnerability.
A more universal example I’m sure many have seen is the throwback to summer. Aw yes…. summer… the magical days when you are in minimal clothing and at your tannest. The hashtag may look a little something like this- “#missingsummer, #tbt.” While I can relate with the sentiment of longing for the beach, there is something wrong about posting a photo of yourself in a bikini from a couple months ago with the hashtag, #tbt. This type of post is the most blatant exploitation of the hashtag.
Anyone, including me, would be lying if they said they didn’t enjoy getting that positive reinforcement from their followers after you share a great photo. Who knows, maybe most posts are for just that reason, an opportunity to get a little praise in your life. That constant need to present yourself and your identity as something to be desired is what bothers me about social media. It is this very reason that I deleted my Facebook. I didn’t enjoy feeling like I was branding myself everyday. My annoyance with #ThrowBackThursday is simply that it has turned into another excuse to flaunt yourself without shame.