April 15, 2024

Whether you’re holding shopping lists or hastily scrawling messages, fridge magnets are highly functional holiday keepsakes. Yet a new study suggests that these trinkets can also provide an important way to access happy — and not so happy — memories from past trips.

As pervasive as souvenirs are, surprisingly little research has investigated what happens to them after people’s vacations are over, and even less has focused on fridge magnets, even though we interact with them almost every day.

“If you think about how often you go into a fridge, it’s very different from those cheese knives you might buy, and then collect dust in a drawer, or a picture that gradually becomes wallpaper,” Dr John Byrom at the University said. of Liverpool, who led the research.

To better understand people’s relationships with their holiday magnets, Byrom and his colleagues conducted in-depth interviews – often in people’s kitchens, within sight of their fridges – with 19 Britons who owned at least 20 such holiday souvenirs.

The research, published in Annals of Tourism Research found that these keepsakes can help preserve memories and elicit emotional responses – with some participants claiming their fridge magnets were more important than photographs as memory aids.

“If you go anywhere you can obviously take 50 to 100 pictures in a day… Whereas now I don’t tend to take a picture of anything… I’ll just put a fridge magnet at the end get,” one participant said.

Forgetting to buy a magnet can become a source of anxiety and stress. One woman reported having to make a hasty airport purchase, which she was not happy about. And when Byrom recently presented his findings at a seminar, an attendee described buying a magnet online and having it shipped from her vacation destination after she returned home.

“It was clear that when people talked through what their magnets meant to them, they could very easily generate these memories and reactions of very specific events or people, including quite poignant examples of holidays they had with people who had died. or children who grew up and moved away,” Byrom said.

“It was also very interesting how fridge magnets can be used as a way to forget things that were bad in your life, to think about how things got better.”

For example, one participant used a fridge magnet from the worst vacation of her life – a trip to Spain she didn’t want to go on – as a reminder of how awful things were at that time in her life.

Byrom said the research prompted him to spend more time looking at his own fridge magnets. “I don’t have many, probably about 10 that I acquired randomly. But it made me reflect on the ones I do have, like a flag from the Caribbean magnet that takes me back to when I was on shared parental leave after my second child was born. I look at it and remember that beach in the Grenadines we were on, and things like that. I think the presence of these things is actually very significant.”

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