To deepen my knowledge into what nostalgia means to people, I made a survey using SurveyMonkey. I tried to ask questions which were both broad and yet give someone the freedom to talk personally about their experiences as well, to achieve the most effective results. These questions were:
- What is the first word(s) that come to mind with the word ‘nostalgia’?
- Do you consider nostalgia a good feeling?
Most people said that nostalgia is widely a positive feeling, which surprised me as I would have selected ‘No’ myself. I feel nostalgia is neither a good or bad feeling, which is what makes it so obscure and special of an emotion. I purposely only gave a blunt ‘Yes or No’ for this question to force people to be direct, as they were more of the results I’m looking for. I can’t base a final piece off of vague results, I need a solid idea and statistic to work with. That being said I did receive a particular interesting piece of feedback from this answerer:
They perceived nostalgia in quite a negative light rather than the sort ‘in between’ I suspect a lot of people were feeling. And I’d have to agree with their answers here to a degree myself, though mine would have more positivity mixed in.
- What sorts of emotions does nostalgia evoke?
Most people seemed to relate nostalgia to warmth and happiness of the past, which ws as to be expected. However, there were a few people who saw nostalgia as regret, or remorse meaning something bad that sticks in their memory may have happened at some point. I personally feel that regret sort of defeats the point of nostalgia, as nostalgia usually creates a specific vivid scene that you revisit, without any regret. This made me realise that maybe some people were not 100% sure on what nostalgia was, as I did have a few people message me asking what nostalgia actually meant. This was interesting in its own way though, as I could begin to see what other people may consider nostalgic rather than my own perceptions.
- Which senses evoke the most nostalgic feelings?
This was mostly quite mixed, leaving not a lot of conclusive information to talk about. However touch taste did seem to lag behind more often than not. I think this is because of how specific a taste or touch would have to be (especially touch, with the endless surfaces that inhabit the earth). It all comes down to what sticks in the mind the longest and most significantly.
- How often do you get feelings of nostalgia? Is it quite a prominent emotion in your life, or something that you feel/think about rarely?
Nearly everyone labelled themselves as not thinking about nostalgia very much, and only something that rarely crosses their mind. I found this to be very surprising as nostalgia is pretty much a part of my daily life. I think about it a lot, and almost crave for it at times.
- Lastly what you consider your most nostalgic image/feeling/thought?
With this question I was prepared to get a very big mixture of results, and I did. However, there were common underlying themes which almost told me something about where or when the person was brought up. For example, I noticed a lot of people who presumably grew in the country talked about a certain field, meadow or a certain scene/place etc. that they used to go to. And people who maybe had a more urban upbringing tended to say something about an old toy, object or member of family. One thing where they all did link however was in the concept of being carefree. Almost everyone of these had nothing to do with work or struggles, and the occasional sad ones were more or less always to do with maybe a deceased family member or pet. In conclusion I feel that I gathered pretty much what I was expecting, with a few interesting results that I can work with thrown in as well. However what does seem a little off is the varied answers on the ‘senses’ question, but the quite similar answers on most of the other questions. This tells me that there are clearly flaws in this method of information gathering, as at the end of the day I can never understand entirely what someone else feels nostalgic. This is why I think it is the most powerful emotion.
Edit: I also put the question of ‘How old are you?’ in a while after, but not a great deal amount of people gave this information, even after me adding it. I do however know the general demographic, and I have also also shared it with a range of ages, so I will have some older results as well.