The sad reason why the echo effect is taking over TikTok


When we think about nostalgia, we tend to think of our grandparents reminiscing about simpler times, or our parents telling us how exciting it was to live back in the ’80s. But the latest TikTok trend proves that the older generations don’t have a monopoly on bittersweet memory.

One of the reasons behind TikTok’s astonishing success over the past few years – besides eyewatering investment from Chinese firm ByteDance – is the ability of its community to put abstract concepts and emotions into visual form. Some TikToks can tug at your heartstrings in a way that some feature-length movies can only dream of. Step forward the ‘How A Memory Sounds’ trend.

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Like looking at an old photograph – the How A Memory Sounds trend

Trends are difficult to trace back to a single starting point, but the best guess at the origins of How A Memory Sounds is this video by @tubwrrld, which has close to 11 million views. Showing Anahí dueting on guitar with her friend, with a poignant piano soundtrack, it’s easy to see why this video set off a chain reaction across the TikTok world.

So how do you make your own How A Memory Sounds video? The genius of the trend is that it’s simple. Just take an old video and add TikTok’s built-in echo effect for that dreamlike reverb, then underlay it with piano music. The classic pick is Cornfield Chase by Dorian Marko. Marko, a professional pianist, has remained quiet in the wake of the trend that has sampled his music more than 1.4 million times; incredibly, he only has 67 followers on Twitter despite his newfound online fame.


Dorian Marko – the soundtrack to TikTok’s latest trend

Why is TikTok’s echo effect, and the How A Memory Sounds trend, blowing up now? Simply put, we’re at an inflection point: the pandemic has separated us from close friends and family for years, but as restrictions generally recede we’re beginning to hope for a world in which we can connect with each other again. At the same time, there’s uncertainty about how soon that can happen – and how safe it will be.

It’s no surprise that people on TikTok are looking back at their memories from before the pandemic with a nostalgic glow. It’s estimated that a full third of the social media giant’s audience is aged between 10 and 19 – considering the pandemic has upturned somewhere between two and three years of our lives, with no definitive end in sight, and that every year in a young person’s life feels important, the emotional weight felt by some of TikTok’s most dedicated users is plain to see.

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TikTok’s latest trend puts happy memories in the spotlight

Echoes and nostalgia have gone hand-in-hand for hundreds of years. In fact, the name ‘echo’ derives from the Greek myth of Echo, a nymph who becomes obsessed with the beautiful Narcissus (who, mythology buffs will know, notoriously falls in love with his own reflection).

Cursed by the goddess Hera that she can only repeat the words she’s most recently heard, Echo longs for Narcissus but can’t talk to him. When the young man becomes separated from his hunting party and calls out “is anyone there?” Echo fruitlessly repeats his question. It’s said that all that remains of Echo today is the sound of her voice.


Narcissus gazes at his own reflection

No one could have imagined that echoes would end up being part of a nostalgic TikTok trend, hundreds of years after the myths were conceived!

Have you taken part in the How A Memory Sounds trend? We just can’t get enough of these bittersweet memories.