Hungry For Nostalgia? There’s An App For That

There are several emails I wake up to every morning that elicit some sort of emotional response upon opening them. One is my horoscope – I don’t take the zodiac all that seriously, but I’ve yet to delete the generalized account of my day without reading it first. And sometimes, they’re oddly predicative. Today’s told me I’d spend the majority of the day working on spreadsheets (GUESS WHAT I DID TODAY, GUYS? HUMPED EXCEL. THAT’S WHAT.)

Another daily email comes from a website called ‘Oh Life.’ It emails me every night around 11:15 PM, asking me how my day went. The gist is that, in an ideal world, I’d respond to the email and ‘Oh Life’ would record the day’s events for me in a journal format on their website. Initially, I thought I’d enjoy being haggled for diary entries every night (though I don’t know why this ever seemed like a good idea), but now it’s more tedious than anything. Just imagine an overzealous suitor emailing you day after day despite your deliberate disinterest. I do occasionally open these emails, but only because they give me recaps of what I’ve written in the past. For example, “142 days ago, you wrote…  ‘Today I got drunk, had brunch alone, started to re-read Dry, then Lisa met up with me. Now we’re watching My Neighbor Totoro and it’s everything.’”

Most recently, I signed up for ‘4squareand7yearsago,’ and I’ve been notably more receptive (and anxious) when opening these emails. The app sends me a summary of my Foursquare check-ins from a year ago. It was the novelty of the app that caused me to sign up initially. I’d heard a few friends discussing it and thought, “This will help me remember everything about last summer, why wouldn’t I want that?” The answer to that question is consistently and smartly listed within the body of each email I receive.

I find equal pleasure in new experiences and in revisiting the places that feel like home. But the new experience of seeing places I felt comfortable in 365 days ago, in an ordered list, has become disheartening. It makes it that much easier to remember the meat of my days, details that would’ve otherwise been lost to age and circumstance. It awakens memories that I’ve purposely kept dizzied up and sedated. Memories that don’t have a place in my life anymore.

When you’re trying to move forward, it’s counterproductive to receive an email every morning that plucks you up and drops you back down into your old life. It’s like reading a book and realizing that you’re the protagonist. Identifiable déjà vu. You open that email and can remember everything about a particular day – what you were wearing, who you were with, your major and minor concerns at that moment. Who you loved. Who you hated. Above all, you’re reminded of the places you no longer have access to. There it is – a directory of where you’ll never be invited again, for your convenience. You are no longer welcome. You won’t be surprised by how much can change in a year. You’ll be surprised by how much an email, shot off by a bot and algorithmic in nature, has the ability to hurt you.

Nostalgia is sometimes likened to ‘homesickness’ or ‘melancholy.’ While it’s the most bittersweet of the three, it seems like something we chase despite knowing that it doesn’t necessarily feel good when we catch it. What appeal is there in recording our thoughts, or in signing up for a website that parrots them back at us? We want records of these things so that we can review them from a distance some time later. We want tangible evidence that we’ve grown, even if it means being flooded by an overwhelming sense of loss in the process. If these reminders have the ability to move us deeply, regrettably so, have we grown? Sure, we’re older, maybe our hair is longer, and perhaps we’ve gained or lost a few pounds. Whether we’ve moved the needle of a scale left or right, nostalgia has the power to remind us that we’re heavy as ever. TC mark

image – PinkMoose


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  • Lauren Wilford

    “Heavy as ever” is a wonderful phrase, especially for an ending. It resonates. It would be a great band name, for an awful emo band in 2003.

    • Lauren Wilford

      ending, dammit.

  • christine

    these are not apps

    • Michael Koh

      referring to your ‘apps’ #amirite

    • Stephanie Georgopulos

      The one that I called an app, is an app.


  • michael kramer


    you meant to say summary

    vowels are not fucking interchangeable

    • Mr Shankly

      So, in summery, you’re a dick.

      I’m kidding it angered me too.

      • michael kramer

        hey, do you think thought catalog needs some pro-bono copy editors?

        because i would be a really good pro-bono copy editor.

      • michael kramer

        pro bono

        no hyphen!

        you are the worst, michael.

        (see guys i’d do a really good job i promise)

    • Asdf

      Technically nothing was actually said, now was it?

      Verbs are not fucking interchangeable.

      • michael kramer

        actually it is perfectly acceptable to use that verb in that sentence

        say: Utter words so as to convey information, an opinion, a feeling or intention, or an instruction

        utter: Publish, circulate, or deliver to another person (a document or other object) 

      • Michael Koh

        did you look it up

      • michael kramer

        i did, in fact.

        it is not a particularly common way to use utter but that does not somehow make it less legitimate.

      • michael kramer

        1    [sey]  Show IPAverb, said, say·ing, adverb, noun, interjection–verb (used with object) utter or pronounce; speak: What did you say? I said“Hello!” express in words; state; declare; word: Say it clearly andsimply. It’s hard to know how to say this state as an opinion or judgment: I say her plan isthe better one.

      • michael kramer

        formatting is garbage but hey look at definition number 2

        isn’t that fucking weird

      • Asdf

        I do not think that word means what you think it means. Reread your definition of utter and read its etymology and come back to this unsolicited copy-editing session.

        You are mistaken.

  • Michael Koh

    There’s this website called “” 

    it’s pretty cool

    • Alex Thayer

      thanks for reminding me of all the emails i’ve written to myself, dick.

      • guest

        yes. biggest problem i have with the site.

  • Egle Makaraite

    Once again a commendable piece.
    Nostalgia is why I don’t have a facebook any more. How can you change as a person if you’re still reminded of everyone you’ve ever known?

  • Dave P

    Humping excel. #dark

  • Sophia

    This was excellent. But I disagree with the statement that nostalgia makes you feel loss; I think that’s true in the short term. But in the long term, I think nostalgia can make you feel full, full of memories and experiences. I don’t want to forget anything, because I want to be able to look back on my life and realize how amazing it was.

  • Frida

    Just signed up for Oh Life…  I guess I am obsessed with that sadness that comes with nostalgia.

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