Curious things about timehop.

I love timehop, like everyone else who loves it, because it surfaces moments from years past. And every once in a while, a moment touches a nostalgic feeling or a perfect outing or brings back a favorite memory – one of those memories so rare in life.

Over time, I have noticed a couple of things especially fascinating about timehop – and, by extension, my own past.

First, I have noticed that over the years, the way I’ve been posting online has changed. Gone are the careless tweets and the random late night postings into 5am. I wonder if that’s because I’ve just gotten older and more mature – or, if that’s because of some version of the Hawthorne effect: that is, by observing my behavior in years past and knowing through timehop I will revisit them, that perhaps I’ve just gotten smarter and more filtered about the kinds of things I post there. By observing, I’ve changed my habits: both because I’ll have to see it again in future, but also because observing my own things from years past constantly reminds me that ever more people are looking at my posts from years past. The more I post, perhaps the less I am posting for myself, and rather more for others.

Second, time and again, it’s showed me how we are more creatures of habit than we sometimes like to think.

We were at dinner Wednesday night and I realized I hadn’t checked my day’s timehop. When we opened it, timehop reminded us that on that day last year, January 29th, 2013, we were in sunny Los Angeles. We looked out the window to a cold, cold New York and continued scrolling through.

We scrolled to last year’s dinner: Osteria Mozza in LA. We had grilled octopus as an appetizer. (Not something we do very often; let’s say perhaps a couple of times a year).

When we saw that post, we were amazed: we were looking at that post at dinner in NYC – and the starter we had just ordered got to our table: grilled octopus as an appetizer.

What are the chances that something like that could happen? And that it could happen, not on any random day in the past, but on the same day a year ago.

And it’s not the first time it’s happened. In the past, I’ve noticed how:

• I’ve run races (sometimes, the same race, sometimes not) on the same weekend two or three years in a row.
• I’ve gone to visit my sister or my family in the same weekend back-to-back (not just holiday weekends here, but random ones peppered throughout the year).
• A day spent wandering stores in SoHo repeats itself. 

You think you know your past – you lived it after all. And then you’re surprised by moments like this.