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Not too long ago, Facebook rolled out its “On This Day” feature. Each day, you get a notification telling you, “You have memories to look back on with [insert names of people here] today.” Clicking the feature brings you to a page listing different Facebook interactions you had on this day in history: friends friended, photos photo-ed, words worded, etc.

When this feature first debuted, I was genuinely intrigued and checked it on an almost daily basis. It was kind of fun. (“Hey! There’s me in 2011 wearing those earrings I liked. Where the fuck are those earrings?!” And, “Wow! There’s the time I took my dog on a boat and he hated it but the pictures were SO cute!”). However, the novelty was lost pretty quickly.


This is what a team player looks like.

Take today’s sampling of “memories” from my Facebook annals. On This Day, I:

  • Was nominated for the ice bucket challenge, then shamefully failed to follow through on it
  • Attended a Kesha concert (legitimately great time)
  • Posted, in 2010, to ask my Facebook friends about equine sleeping habits, because I was trying to figure out if a horse on the side of the road near Assateague Island was sleeping or dead. (Received 20 comments, which was and still is extremely high for me)
  • Posted, also in 2010, to ask if it was OK to wear Adidas pants with a jean jacket (two comments received, 0 percent supportive)
  • Cemented two real-life acquaintanceships with the act of Facebook friendship

Is there really a point to revisiting these moments? Much like the track pants/jean jacket inquiry, the answer to this rhetorical question is no.

Now, I’m not technophobic (yet!), and I actually love the idea that a machine could help me hang onto my best memories. Also, I’m QUITE aware that to complain about the mundanity of one’s Facebook history is to complain about the mundanity of one’s own self, choices, and thoughts. (You want your On This Day to be interesting? Then do some cool shit and post about it. Repeatedly. Forever. –Sincerely, Facebook Customer Support Team Lead, Captain Ronald J. Obvious.)

So no, it’s not Facebook’s fault that my On This Days (Ons This Day? On These Days?) are not super awesome. I think Facebook’s real sin is in the wording they present them with. “You have MEMORIES to look back on today!” That’s like telling someone “I brought CHOCOLATES for you today!” and handing them Tootsie Rolls – it may fit some legal definition, but it fails to satisfy the ideal.

It’s mid-August right now. This time of year reminds me of visiting Duxbury Beach with Grandma, the water still shockingly cold even as summer waned. Or showing up for day one of field hockey tryouts in high school, running the timed mile in incredible heat, praying to not be the person who barfed in the metal trash can just outside the track. Of moving into college, carrying enormous Dell computer components in multiple trips as my mother reminded me it was a VERY EXPENSIVE study aid, not a toy.

These memories are not recalled with algorithmic precision, nor are they presented with neat notifications. They’re approximate, factually dicey (was the water really that cold? Were people really barfing, or did I just feel like it could happen?), and retrieved at random, brought on by the smell of salt water or the sight of a rusty trash can. I can’t summon them with a click and I can’t assign them a day or even always a year. They are too old, too internalized to be Facebook memories. They’re Brain memories, and for now they are still the best kind.

Lauren Layman

Lauren lives in DC and knows the name of every dog on her block, but none of the humans.

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