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What it Means to Look Back on the Past in the Social Media Age
  - NHK E-Tele "SNS Eigojutsu" #DearMeTenYearsAgo (aired 2019/05/31) | LANGUAGE & EDUCATION #022
Photo: ©RendezVous
2022/05/02 #022

What it Means to Look Back on the Past in the Social Media Age
- NHK E-Tele "SNS Eigojutsu" #DearMeTenYearsAgo (aired 2019/05/31)

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Translator / Interpreter / TV commentator


1.Our Theme for This Week, #DearMeTenYearsAgo

Our theme this week was #DearMeTenYearsAgo. We featured the messages people were tweeting to their past selves. Some were firmly tongue-in-cheek, looking to strike it rich by sending themselves lottery numbers or cryptocurrency investment advice. Many others recalled how they were going through rough times, and sent the words of encouragement that they so desperately needed to hear. Some relayed with glee all of the good things that had come over the past 10 years, while others expressed chagrin that bad habits die hard. A similar air of reflection has been present in Japan too, with the end of the Heisei era and the beginning of the Reiwa era. Globally speaking, the 2010s are coming to a close, and we are on the cusp of a new decade. The world seems to be in a contemplative mood these days.

There are no do-overs in life, and we can’t actually travel back in time. Nevertheless, we like to imagine hypothetical scenarios to comfort ourselves in times of uncertainty: What would you say to your younger self? Sometimes we play out an imaginary conversation between the person we were and the person we’ve become. These types of thought experiments are a way for us to check in with ourselves and make sure that we are on the right path.

There are also many examples of an author taking this approach as a way to dispense advice and life lessons to people who are in a similar situation or environment to their past selves. One of the most famous examples is entrepreneur and Stanford professor Tina Seelig’s What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20. There were plenty of tweets we featured on our #DearMeTenYearsAgo episode that were touching or inspiring, but for practical advice you can apply in your own life, I recommend reading this book.

In English we have the saying “hindsight is 20/20". It means that the future is difficult to predict, but after the fact—with the benefit of hindsight—it is clear what actions or decisions we should have taken. The Japanese word for this is 後知恵(あとじえ). To put it another way, it often feels like there’s an insurmountable wall standing in our way, keeping us from attaining our dreams. But in reality, that wall is of our own making, and if we are able to overcome it, we realize the wall did not exist. Many of the #DearMeTenYearsAgo tweets reflect this realization. Of course, the irony is that even if you were able to send a message to our past self, our past self would likely be unresponsive to your advice.

2.Retrospection in the Social Media/Smartphone Age

What stuck with me this episode was Sasaki Toshinao-san’s comment that in the social media and smartphone age, we’re capturing more of our daily lives than in any other period of human history so far.

Smartphones have made it possible to take photos and videos whenever and wherever we are. Technological advances have made it easy to store and share said data, forever changing our lives in the process.

Some choose to use this tech to post photos of what they had for lunch to Instagram, while others enthusiastically share each and every waking moment of their toddlers with family. It seems like you can find someone attempting a selfie on every street corner. At events and concerts, audience members hold their phones up to their faces and take in the stage through their screens. We live in times when it isn’t clear if we take photos and post to social media in order to commemorate something we did, or if we do something in order to have something to post to social media. Sometimes it can feel like something didn’t really happen unless you have the photo or video evidence on your phone to prove it.

Several years ago Facebook rolled out a “friendship anniversary" feature, automatically compiling a slideshow of photos to commemorate the anniversary of when you became friends with someone on the platform. A thoughtful feature, perhaps, if you and your friends are avid users of Facebook, but I can’t shake the sense that Facebook has become curator of so many memories and friendships. There’s always been something off about friendships on the service, anyway—it’s become the norm to “friend" someone before you’ve become actual friends IRL (in real life).

There is something intriguing, however, about an idea like the “1 Second Everyday" app, which allows users to take a daily secondlong video that is compiled into a 6-minute (365-second) video at the end of a year. The app is the brainchild of entrepreneur Cesar Kuriyama, who realized on the cusp of turning 30 that he had barely any memories from his 20s. He quit his advertising job, and started the project that eventually created “1 Second Everyday". Kuriyama has said that by choosing only one second out of every day to include in the video, you can free yourself of the habit of having to capture anything and everything that happens during your day. What’s more, he says that a second may not seem like much, but it is more than enough to trigger memories from the rest of the day in question. And when you have too many routine days in a row, the habit of using the app inspires you to break out of your routine and change things up.

With advances in social media and smartphone tech, it’s become easier than ever to record our daily lives. The important thing is to lead a life that is worth recording, and worth revisiting.

3.On the Word “Decade"

As Torikai Kumiko-sensei said on the show, in English we have a specific word to denote a period of ten years: decade. The prefix “deca-” or “deka-” is derived from the Greek word for ten. For example, a decathlon is a 10-event track and field athletic contest.

In addition to meaning “ten years”, decade can refer to specific ten-year periods beginning with a year whose last digit is zero, such as 2000 to 2009. For example, “the past decade” refers to the ten years leading up to today, and “the coming decade” or “the next decade” refers to the ten years to come starting today, but the phrase “the previous decade” refers to the period between 2000 and 2009, that is, the 2000s. “This decade” refers to the 2010s.

The phrase “the last decade” depends on context. If you say “during the last decade” you mean the ten years leading up to today, but if you say “the last decade of the 20th century”, you are referring to the 1990s. On the other hand, if you say “during his last decade”, you are referring to the final ten years of somebody’s life.

During our taping our MC Haruhi-san wondered aloud if you can call a twenty-year anniversary a “two-decade anniversary”. This is somewhat of a tricky issue. While you can say “twenty-year anniversary” or “twentieth anniversary”, the phrase “two-decade anniversary” is non-standard. That is because the prefix “anni-” is derived from “annus”, a Latin word meaning “one year”. In other words, an anniversary celebrates something that happened on the same date in a previous year. These days couples often celebrate their “six-month anniversary”, but technically speaking that makes no sense. While there is a word for a date that commemorates a ten-year span—decaversary—it is hardly ever used. Unless your partner is a linguist, I don’t recommend saying to your significant other “happy second decaversary”—it’s a surefire buzzkill.

Meanwhile, the word “century”, however, is commonly used to denote a 100-year span. The prefix “centi-” is derived from Latin and means “one hundred” or “one-hundredth”. For example, a centimeter is one-hundredth of a meter. Centipedes get their name from the fact that they have so many legs (technically, they have an average of 35 pairs, or 70 legs). 100-year anniversaries are known as centennials. In 1976, the U.S. celebrated its bicentennial—two hundred years since it declared its independence.

Then there’s “millennium”, used to denote 1,000 years. The prefix “milli-” is derived from Latin and means “one thousand” or “one-thousandth”. For example, a millimeter is one-thousandth of a meter. (The prefix “kilo-” also means “one thousand”, but is derived from Greek.) And the word “millennial” is commonly used in the U.S. to refer to the generation that reached adulthood around the year 2000—turn of the millennium.

The metric system remains foreign to most Americans, who prefer to measure things in inches, feet, pounds, and ounces, but when it comes to the span of time, a factor of ten seems to be the most straightforward way to break things down.

4.How to Use Home Movies From the Analog Age

A few weeks ago in my piece on our #MothersDay episode (LANGUAGE & EDUCATION #019) I wrote about how I wanted to make it a point to contact my parents more frequently and show them love while I still have time. A lot of the tweets for #DearMeTenYearsAgo were of a similar vein—reminders that 「いつまでもあると思うな親と金」(a Japanese saying that warns, “Don’t rely on your parents and money to stick around forever.”) The tweet we featured of a man telling his younger self to convey his feelings to his father and spend time together while he still has the chance struck a chord with our MC Haruhi-san and co-host Hide-san. As the Japanese aphorism goes, 「親の心子知らず」. In other words, “no child knows how dear they are to their parents.”

The other day, when I was talking with my father on the phone, I asked him what he would say to the 2009 version of himself. He was silent for a moment, and laughingly said, “Blu-rays and digital tech are going to become so advanced so quickly. Don’t waste all that time converting those VHS home movies to DVD.”

As my younger sister and I were growing up, my father would use his camcorder capture everyday moments, special occasions like piano recitals and sports day at Japanese Saturday school, and everything in between. He took all the videos he’d taken in 90s, saved them on VHS, and converted them to DVD in the 2000s. Then in the 2010s, he went about reconverting them to digital data stored on a hard drive. He figured that he could have skipped the conversion to DVD. Having seen my father spend some late nights in front of the decks, checking to make sure the VHS had properly been transferred to DVD, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Once our laughter had died down, and after a another stretch of silence, my father admitted, “Joking aside, transferring the video to DVD was an opportunity to revisit all of that footage. Remember what you guys were like when you were little. Reflect on how I’ve done as a father. It was actually a deeply moving process.” He explained how since he’d retired, he’d began spending time converting those many DVDs to digital data. For him the process the second time around was just as reflective, and anything but a waste of time.

On the other hand, he expressed his concern that people these days live life through their smartphones 24/7, taking videos of their children all day or taking photos of only their best, most manufactured moments. “I get the feeling they don’t have the time to revisit all of what they take. They find satisfaction in the idea that it’s all on their phone if they need it.”

5.My Wardrobe for This Episode

Off-white double breasted jacket by Azabu Tailor

Off-white double breasted jacket by Azabu Tailor
Check out LANGUAGE & EDUCATION #008 for more information about this item.

Gray shirt by Isetan

Gray shirt by Isetan
Check out FASHION & SHOPPING #021 for more information about this item.

Black cufflinks by MFYS

Black cufflinks by MFYS
Check out CINEMA & THEATRE #011 for more information about this item.

Black suit trousers by GlobalStyle

Black suit trousers by GlobalStyle
Check out FASHION & SHOPPING #011 for more information about this item.

Carbon gray cocks by Tabio

Carbon gray cocks by Tabio
Check out CINEMA & THEATRE #015 for more information about this item.

Black wingtip shoes by Regal

Black wingtip shoes by Regal
Check out FASHION & SHOPPING #009 for more information about this item.

Black glasses by Zoff

Black glasses by Zoff
Check out FASHION & SHOPPING #006 for more information about this item.


What it Means to Look Back on the Past in the Social Media Age - "SNS Eigojutsu" (aired 2019/05/31)

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