Are you familiar with Timehop?
The popular app “gathers your social media content and photos from across your favorite platforms and shows it to you on its anniversary, everyday.”
Timehop is a pretty freaking cool app — one I’ve been a fan of for the past few years.
As described above, Timehop rounds up ALLLLLL of your social media posts (and even photos on your phone’s camera roll) from this day last year, the year before that, and on and on for your viewing pleasure.
A digital walk down memory lane.
It has become part of my daily routine to click open Timehop and review my social media posts and memories from this day in my personal history. I delighted in re-sharing special moments through Timehop’s sharing feature texting my siblings funny quips about our pets, or tweeting out old tweets that foreshadowed the beginnings of my blog and business.
My dose of daily nostalgia was fun, until it became almost an unhealthy habit, and I quit the app cold turkey.
(Note: This post isn’t meant to bash Timehop in any way, shape or form. In fact, I love the app and it brought me much joy for many years. However, this post is meant to share my personal story of why it became important for me to stop dwelling in the past and instead stay focused on the present.)
Why are we so obsessed with streaks?
Timehop is extremely addicting. Here’s why: At the end of each viewing session, Timehop shows you how many days in a row you’ve looked at the app. The app calls this a streak.
I became obsessed with this number, getting annoyed at myself if I forgot to check the app, accidentally missing a day or two, restarting my streak.
Apparently, I’m not alone in this obsession. A quick Google search of “Timehop streak” reveals tweets between the app and users anxiously wondering why their streak reset and how they can get it back.
That led me to wonder. Why are we so obsessed with streaks? Timehop certainly isn’t the only app to utilize this tactic — Snapchat uses it too. (Side note: There are SO many fascinating articles about why people — especially teenagers — are obsessed with Snapchat streaks. Give this one from BusinessInsider a read.)
I did a little research, and I couldn’t find any hard data on why humans are so drawn to streaks. The closest I could find was a CNN article that explained the ‘rule of reciprocation’ explaining that “humans have a need to respond to a positive action with another positive action.”
It makes sense. At the end of each Timehop viewing, I felt a sense of celebratory satisfaction. A task complete. An item checked off my list with literally no work done on my part.
So I set my sights on a one-year streak: 365 days of looking at Timehop. No matter what.
And guess what? I did it! I looked at Timehop for one year straight (although I swear I missed a day or two and Timehop gave me a “free pass”).
So, what did the one-year streak get me? Well, nothing. Sure, I felt a little moment of glee. I did it! I beat the system.
But then, really, I felt nothing. After all, I didn’t actually accomplish anything except opening the same app every single day for one year.
Pulling myself out of the past
While Timehop can be wonderful in helping us to remember some of life’s brightest moments, unfortunately there’s also a depressing downside.
For one, Timehop remembers everything. The good, the bad and the ugly. Reliving breakups. Family deaths. Times of sadness and struggle. A walk down my personal memory lane didn’t always leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.
As an example, despite being in a happy long-term relationship right now, viewing tweets from a breakup years ago left me with a little pang of sadness — not because I’m still sad about that relationship ending, but because for just a moment, those shared memories would bring me right back to that painful place.
And on an almost opposite note, as humans, we tend to romanticize the past. This is called psychological distance — looking back at old times and remembering them as better than they actually were. (Anyone else guilty?! Hello!)
Here’s a personal example of psychological distance at work. Even though I quit my job to run my own business and I love what I do, sometimes seeing Timehop posts about my old day job makes me miss what I used to have. That’s because I’m only thinking about the positive aspects the past — likely remembering those memories very differently because I’m so physically and mentally removed from them and how I actually felt in those moments.
Fascinating stuff, right?
So while Timehop entertained me most of the time or brought me back to happy moments, there were certainly days it made me feel sad or regretful or anxious. And real life is hard enough, right? Why make it more challenging?
Why I quit Timehop
Ultimately, all of this led me (with the encouragement of my boyfriend who rolled his eyes every time I laid in bed scrolling through 10 years of digital memories to get to that satisfying end point) to delete the app, once and for all.
Here’s what it boils down to for me.
Timehop began to feel like a waste of time. After all, I’ve been active on Twitter for 10+ years, so each day I’d have a ton of social media content to sift through — sometimes taking me 10-15 full minutes to get through it all. On most days, I’d mindlessly scroll through without even reading or viewing JUST to keep my streak going. I mean, what?!
Timehop stopped feeling productive. Sure, it was fun to see some of my memories, but on a day-to-day basis, my tweets and posts really aren’t that earth-shattering. There was even a time back in the early Twitter day that I tweeted “Goodnight, moon” every night before I went to sleep. Why? I don’t know. But year after year, Timehop reminds me of the embarrassing ways I used social media before I realized the Internet is forever.
I can access my memories in other ways. My fondest memories live on in other places. For one, they live in my head. And they live in the stories I can share with those I experienced those memories with. Similarly, many of my most poignant moments have become posts here on the blog. On the social media side of things, I share far less frequently on Facebook and Instagram, so I can scroll back (or utilize Facebook’s On This Day feature — very similar to Timehop, but Facebook-specific). These memories are easily accessible, if I want to find them.
Living in the present
Most importantly, I deleted Timehop to focus on the present.
So many of us focus our energy on things that happened in the post. Many of us also fall prey to worrying and planning for the future. It can be exhausting, mentally and emotionally. I’m certainly guilty.
While deleting an app off of my phone isn’t necessarily the answer to all of these major life challenges, it feels like a productive step in the right direction.
I deleted Timehop about two months ago, and other than writing this post, I haven’t given it much thought. I don’t miss it.
If Timehop brings you joy, by all means, continue using the app. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not bashing Timehop or what they do in any way. I think their technology is quite genius, actually.
However, if a part of you feels a certain way when you view your Timehop, maybe take a moment to consider why you feel that way, and make a choice for yourself about continuing to use the app.
Tell me! Do you use Timehop? Have you had any positive or negative experiences with the app? Anyone obsessed with the streak like me? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo via iTunes
Want more gutsy content delivered straight to your inbox twice a month? Be sure to sign up for my FREE #GetGutsy e-newsletter filled with inspiration, ideas and action items to get out of your comfort zone.