The tail end of February saw a remarkable new digital achievement that continues to enthrall the internet this week: MyHeritage, a genealogy platform, launched its “Deep Nostalgia” feature that uses artificial intelligence technology to bring old photos to life. The software uses “deep learning” and short videos called “drivers” to endow a photograph’s subject with subtle facial expressions and gestures.

It’s no wonder the tool has captured the public attention, as the closest thing we’ve ever seen to it is actual wizardry: The results look eerily similar to the enchanted portraits and newspapers that adorn the fictional world of Harry Potter. But in the real world, magic has been supplanted by technology, in one of those unusual instances where the future really does look a bit like science fiction.

And that technology can only get more impressive. Although the feature is currently plagued by occasional glitches and flaws in its “learning” and falls within the “uncanny valley” — that phenomenon that sets off alarm bells in our head when we’re seeing something that, while realistic, isn’t quite right — the product is still remarkably convincing even now, providing the illusion that the subject is right there with us. As it improves, we’ll have to be wary of how we use it.

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Some have used the feature to animate giants of history, like this montage of famous composers. To cap off Black History Month, this Twitter thread brought to life historical greats like Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells and Harriet Tubman. But of course, the stated purpose of the genealogy company’s product is to animate photos of family members — and that’s where we must exercise caution about how we’re coping with loss.

Clinical psychologist Valentina Stoycheva writes for Psychology Today that nostalgia can be a good thing for “the goal of fortifying social bonds, increasing positive self-regard, and bolstering one’s sense of meaning in life.” But she warns against overindulging in memories of the past.

“When taken to an extreme, nostalgia can also, on the one hand, lead to unhelpful behaviors and negative consequences, and, on the other, prevent us from utilizing more helpful coping strategies,” Stoycheva writes. “The difference between helpful and harmful nostalgia is the difference between incorporating the positive emotions of reminiscing into the present versus renouncing the present for the sake of reinstating and perpetually reliving some moment in the past.”

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We’re living in an epoch defined, at least in part, by grief. More than half a million Americans have had a loved one taken from them just in the past year, by one disease alone. Even those of us who haven’t lost someone to COVID-19 are grieving a previous world without social distancing, quarantine and the inhuman loneliness of isolation. Many of us have spent this isolation immersed in nostalgia for simpler times, perhaps with friends and family who are no longer with us.

Our society’s brutal confrontation with grief has even wormed its way into our entertainment: One of the most popular streaming shows right now, “WandaVision,” is about a woman, unable to cope with loss, who uses reality-bending powers to create an illusion of her late lover living blissfully with her in seemingly simpler eras. Sound familiar?

Of course, “Deep Nostalgia” is nowhere near that level of immersion. It is, after all, only a few seconds of voiceless movement. But more engrossing technology is out there, like the hologram of the late Robert Kardashian that Kanye West gifted to his wife, and it’ll likely grow only more captivating.

And even the current capabilities are having an effect: One Twitter user shared a (literally) moving portrait of her grandmother with the caption, “I have clients waiting for work today, how can I tear myself away from this.” One can assume her words are hyperbolic. But the seed is there, in all of us, ready to bloom for something far more immersive.

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MyHeritage’s new feature can be a helpful tool for “incorporating the positive emotions of reminiscing into the present.” But in order to ensure we’re not oversimplifying the past and getting in the way of healthier coping strategies, Stoycheva urges us to ask ourselves three questions:

1. What emotion am I after? In engaging in nostalgia, what former self-state am I seeking to re-create?

2. How will this help me and also how can I stay rooted in the present while I also feel the positive emotions of reminiscing?

3. Am I avoiding complex emotions? If so, what are they, and why are they so hard for me? Where else can I seek help in managing my emotions?

By all means, be impressed by the magic of “Deep Nostalgia.” Let it bring a smile to your face. But remember what Professor Dumbledore told a young Harry Potter about such an image: It “gives us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away in front of it. ... It does not do to dwell on dreams, Harry, and forget to live.” In a grief-stricken world too easily ensnared by the past, be sure not to get in too deep.