What We Can Learn From Our Media Reconsumption Habits
A fire is crackling, a warm blanket is wrapped around you and a cup of tea is in hand; the perfect set up to open up a childhood favorite in hopes of recreating the feeling you had when you first read it. For me, these books would include the Harry Potter series or the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, both classics from 2000s childhoods. Some of my fondest early memories are reading these series for the first time, staying up all night just to absorb myself into these worlds. With so many changes and new things happening as we grow up, many of us can find it scary or overwhelming. But going back to stories that we are familiar with is a way some people deal with these hard changes.
Go into any bookstore and any person who grew up in the early 2000s will see the same books from their childhood still on the shelves. Why do booksellers continue to stock 2000s and 2010s middle grade and young adult fiction? Is it because of the immense amount of people who reread them?
A big reason that people consume media from their childhood is the comfort it provides. When we reread something, most of the time it’s because when we first read it, we enjoyed it. Whether it be the connection to the characters, the escapism from real life, or the time when we read it, all of these aspects provide that comforting nostalgic feeling. Also, when we know how something ends, this can make a person feel safe. Think of when you watch a scary movie but already know what’s going to happen. That feeling of safety is the exact same feeling when coming back to a book you loved in fifth grade or when rewatching the movie you loved the summer before starting middle school.
The practice of rereading is actually something that has been introduced to a lot of us in our youth. Many of us had comforting books read to us over and over as children and were even encouraged to reread some on our own. In the article, “6 Benefits of Rereading Books(Over…and Over) for Kids” published in Scholastic, Jodie Rodriguez discusses how there are even some benefits to rereading. This includes the connections we create to these stories and their characters which helps children be more empathetic, filling the gap when trying to find a new book to read and helping build fluency. When we reread, we are benefiting ourselves in more ways than we thought.
Along with the comfort these stories provide, the escapism is another major aspect of rereading something. Everyday we are bombarded with horrific news stories and it seems to never end. These stories, plus all of us living through a global pandemic, are very stressful and traumatic experiences. Many people crave a way to escape these horrors. Getting lost in these worlds and stories is the perfect way to do that. During the pandemic, I found myself crawling back to my old Harry Potter books, wanting to enter the magical world of Hogwarts. I am not alone in this feeling as many people especially felt a longing for nostalgia during lockdown. In the New York Times article “The Comfort of Childhood Media During Lockdown,” author Amanda Hess goes into detail about their time in lockdown resetting back to their favorite childhood games.
Hess explains her feelings of nostalgia by saying how “It’s a memory for my mind to visit when my body can’t go anywhere else, and a vain attempt to grasp control over my surroundings.” This is a perfect way of describing the need many of us felt during this time.
Besides the comfort and escapism provided, going back to these stories as adults can often cause us to learn a lot more about ourselves and see the stories in a new light. As children we often don’t fully grasp the stories we loved, and tend to miss some of the nuances of the story.
An article by writer Emma Court in The Atlantic, “What Rereading Childhood Books Teaches Adults About Themselves,” provides us with an opportunity for personal growth. Court beautifully states how “not only do rereaders rediscover the story, but they may also rediscover themselves.” This really is what these stories can do. They help create a connection between our past child selves and our present adult selves.
So when you feel yourself wanting to crawl back to these old stories from your past, allow yourself the indulgence. Go make yourself that cup of tea and snuggle up with something older like The Chronicles of Narnia or escape into the world of the Hunger Games. Your inner child is needing it and following that nostalgic feeling can have more benefits than one would think.
Allie Richter is a sophomore psychology major who thinks we should let people enjoy their childhood favorites in peace. She can be reached at [email protected].
Art by Julia Young.