Ontological Insecurity, Nostalgia, and Social Media: Viewing YouTube Videos of Old TV Commercials Reestablishes Continuity of the Self Over Time

Publication Name

Psychology of Popular Media


Leximancer identified word frequencies and co-occurrences in thousands of comments on YouTube videos of TV commercials from the 60s and 70s (Study 1) and the 50s–80s (Study 2). Multiple clusters of co-occurring words suggested ontological insecurity (e.g., “old,” “remember,” “love,” “miss”) and (e.g., “childhood,” “memories,” “happy,” “best”) as motives for viewing these videos. Leximancer generated samples of comments containing multiple key words from each cluster, and interpretive analyses of the comments in these samples revealed themes of (a) verifying and sharing autobiographical memories with others, (b) denigrating the present and embellishing the lived past, and (c) trying to connect with younger generations. Watching and discussing TV ads from childhood and early adulthood seems to help viewers reestablish continuity of the self over time and the inherent value of their autobiographical past. Exchanging comments with others on social media may restore a sense of ontological security by allowing viewers to verify their lived pasts via exchanges with others who also remember the “good old days.”

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