Online Engagements

Nostalgia is embedded into Internet culture as users navigate through the landscape of interactive web design and fantastical simulations of reality, all the while utilizing its memory-based linguistics.

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           Aside from playing with physical Beanie Babies, I frequently read and participated in the Ty website’s chat forum called Ty Talk, where discussions and questions were updated daily and moderated by alumni users. The Ty website was bright and colourful, with navigation links in the form of campy images. There was also a section containing a list of all Beanie Babies with their names, information, and photos, and I would just scroll through this database reading each profile. I also recall emailing a moderator once, asking if she could help me determine the value and rarity of a specific Beanie Baby that I was having a difficult time finding. After Windows updated its Hotmail email server to Outlook a number of years ago, all old emails were permanently deleted. Unfortunately with it went my email correspondences from childhood, as I have been using the same email address since I was nine.

Screenshot of the Ty website as it were in the early 2000s. Source linked to image.

           How is it possible for a website, a virtual entity, to elicit feelings of nostalgia? The Internet is interestingly structured to mimic the architecture of reality with linguistic implications borrowed from “key metaphors of philosophical and literary discourse — virtual reality comes from [Henri] Bergson’s theory of consciousness, hypertext, from narrative theories of intertextuality” (Boym 348). The Internet is a world mirroring realty, or at the least, representing it, even if abstractly. It includes “elements of pastoral imagery and ‘Western’ genres (the global village, homepage and the frontier mentality)” such that the web aesthetic “redefined the architecture of space with a ‘superhighway,’ villages and chatrooms — all evidence that the Internet foregrounds pastoral suburbia and the romance of the highway and domestic morality tales over the ruins of the metropolis” (348). Conceptualizations of nostalgia become a function of digitized space, where our understanding of the world is coded into online representations, only then to circle back and evoke sensations of familiarity. When I found the screenshot of Ty’s website in the early 2000s, I was suddenly tinged with the ephemeral sensation of nostalgia, and with it a clearer reflection of my childhood.

A search on for "Beanie Baby" in October 2017.

           Ebay was also saturated with Beanie Babies, as well as plastic cases to store them in if it were a particularly rare or valuable edition. It was an interesting curatorial decision to attach museum-like fragility and reverence to a stuffed animal costing $5-$25. Collectors would purchase Beanie Babies with the intention of their resell value to skyrocket over the decades, however that has hardly happened. To this day, Ebay contains over 97,000 search results for Beanie Babies.

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