Connecting Online

James Poniewozik has mixed feelings about nostalgia over the Internet:

News outlets have always loved the convenience of anniversaries, of course; we’re in the middle of experiencing the 50th birthday of everything that happened in the ’60s. But lately we’ve been buried in “Wanna Feel Old?” listicles and “___ Turns 20″ features. (Some of them, I fully admit, written by me.) A lot of this material is aimed at millennials (see the outpouring of love for cultural landmark Saved By the Bell), but I wouldn’t want to overstate this as a generational phenomenon. My own people, Gen Xers, grew up on Happy Days and gave the world the Schoolhouse Rock Live! musical. Premature nostalgia may just be our general way of dealing with our society’s extended nether-zone between childhood and independent adulthood.

Whatever the explanation, though, online sharing and social media have positively weaponized nostalgia.

Others are nostalgic for life offline:

In an era where people flock to Facebook to find friends or communicate solely via text, a growing niche of entrepreneurs is building businesses that help people meet the old-fashioned way: in person.

As digital connections have blossomed, so too has a sense of loneliness among some users. Patrick Janelle, a founder of Spring St., is one of them. He said he started the society, in part, because his digital life, which includes an Instagram account with about 276,000 followers, lacked the human contact he craved.

Guests now depend on him, not a computer algorithm, to do the social sorting for them, betting his parties will create an atmosphere that fosters meaningful relationships. “I want to be remembered for bringing these people together,” said Mr. Janelle, of the get-togethers he plans with his Spring St. partner, Amy Virginia Buchanan. He added: “It resonates right now because there is a mystery and surprise, and you are discovering new things.”

Cody C. Delistraty, meanwhile, insists on the authenticity of online relationships:

The question, then, is whether these relationships in the virtual world are still the same as relationships pursued in the real world or is there a fundamental difference, as Baudrillard would have claimed? Can we still call love “love” if it’s passing through a screen?

For the past decade, Paul J. Zak, a professor of neuro-economics at the Claremont Graduate University who sometimes goes by “Dr. Love,” has been conducting studies on how relationships maintained over social media differ from relationships in real life. What he has found is that there’s hardly any difference at all.

“It’s as if the brain doesn’t really differentiate between you posting on social media and you being there in person,” he told me. “We’re such hyper-social creatures that we have a large release of dopamine when we’re with other people. But we can also get that release through Twitter or any social media, really.”