How Facebook's 'On This Day' Feature Has Ruined Nostalgia For A Generation

You were never cool, and that's okay

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They say that the moment you realise your dad isn't a superhero is when you first see him cry – but I reckon, for my kids, it'll be when they look through my Facebook tagged photos and discover that I once wore light blue rosary beads every day for three years.

Or it might be the indoor scarves and extreme scoop neck tees that tip them off. Maybe they'll scroll down my timeline and see my "ello lol" attempts to flirt on girls' walls. Whatever the route, they'll still inevitably come face-to-face with who their father really is: a relentless, irredeemable bellend.

The author, as a dickhead.
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It's a truth I'm confronted with on a daily basis thanks to Facebook's 'On This Day' feature, where images of my awkward, gurning past rise from the dead like All Saints-clad zombies.

And it feels like a jip, because – for those of us above the age of 20 – our own parents' pasts are shrouded in mystery. Beyond the photos of gravity-defying haircuts and shoulder-width lapels that gather dust in our cupboards and lofts, there's no way of truly knowing them as anything besides their fully evolved form. It lends their lives a totally unmerited sense of glamour and intrigue.

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Unlike them, we don't get to curate our past, or misremember ourselves as someone else. When I first watched Dazed and Confused, like with any great movie about being young, beautiful and bored, it made me queasily nostalgic for a moment in my life that never actually happened. Their sunrise brewski sessions on the school football field bore little resemblance to my cold evenings spent sharing a single can of 4.8% ABV backwash behind an ASDA car park, but I still missed it like it was my own memory. 'On This Day' quickly put pay to that.

The author and his friends, Bexleyheath, 2007

You might be lucky. Maybe you didn't have a mate who insisted on making a public photo album out of any and every social occasion you attended - but I doubt it. For those of us who were in school or university when Facebook first gained international traction in 2008, it inspired a weird culture of bulk-upload voyeurism, where even the grimmest, most underwhelming night out was documented for posterity. The launch of the iPhone didn't help much, either.

It's all changed now. Record numbers of kids are ditching Facebook in favour of Instagram and Snapchat, where the vignettes of their lives are either transient or polished beyond recognition. In a way, I feel bad for them.

The author, wearing a thin scarf at the height of summer in Zante, Greece

Their Instagram accounts, in particular, are existential time bombs. It's hard enough growing old, misshapen and haggard without having a beautifully filtered ode to your long-lost youth staring back at you.

Conversely, cringe-inducing Facebook photos aren't a reminder of your glittering past, but of your under appreciated present. After all, it's hard not to look at an old picture of yourself necking a quadvod in Brighton Oceana without realising that you've progressed as a person. That what time has stolen in nice skin it has provided in dignity.

In a world where the pressures of self-improvement come from all angles, it's important to look back and ask yourself one question: am I less of a dickhead than I was yesterday? If the answer is yes, then chances are you're doing just fine.