I Have A Love-Hate Relationship With Facebook's TimeHop Feature

by Jamie Sumner
Ondrooo / iStock

There’s a certain order to the morning, the only time, in fact, that order can be claimed with three kids under 5. The day is a thread I carefully spool under the cover of darkness and then watch as it unravels after the babes stir. From then on out, chaos reigns supreme.

By evening, I am unraveled once more. But the morning is mine, and I unfold it with military precision. Make coffee. Assemble the kids’ lunches. Let the dog out and threaten her with her life if she barks. And finally, sit down like a ninja at the kitchen table with coffee, breakfast, and the news.

Don’t be fooled. The “news” I am referring to is of the off-the-cuff variety. The highlights on Twitter, the Facebook scroll, the most cursory glances at The New Yorker, mostly for show. The last news, of course, is my own — the app I cannot click until I have fortified myself with food and drink and silent meditation, TimeHop.

In theory, TimeHop is the movie montage of our lives that we wish someone would make. It is the rehearsal dinner slideshow designed to make you smile, laugh, and cringe at that perm you once thought was a good idea, in theory. In reality, TimeHop is an emotional vortex, brewing off the coast of your life, waiting to touch down — at least it is for me as a parent to a child with special needs.

Not so long ago, TimeHop was a jolly walk down memory lane. But five years have passed, years that have logged months in the NICU, thousands of therapies, fittings for leg braces and a series of wheelchairs, each one larger than the last, like matryoshka dolls. In the mix, we’ve also got first steps, first bites, first words, first friends at school.

It’s like playing the slots in Vegas. Will I see, over my last sips of coffee, that wagon ride on a late spring evening last year when all three kids held hands for the nanosecond it took to snap a picture? Or will I see the inside of a NICU room from four years ago, the thrumming incubator that would be our son’s womb for the first two months of his life when I could not?

Will it be his first time to stand tall with his physical therapist, that smiling face looking up at her full of trust and determination? Or will it be the trains that entertained him at the pediatrician’s office while we waited to be diagnosed with pneumonia? When you think about it, the gamble’s almost not worth your money.

Almost. Because sometimes the hop puts it clearer than my muddied mind ever could. My son has never straddled the ordinary timeline. He knew the alphabet before he could talk. He knew numbers and colors and any musical note you could ping before he could walk. He’s a time traveler of sorts — as are all kids with special needs.

We know better than to strap them to that developmental chart. How droll. They are quantum-leapers. Their sequences of events are unpredictable. They are the wormholes in the universe — the ones with an all-access pass to places we cannot always reach with our logic and our steady trod forward through the customary phases of life.

Which is why my morning routine comes with a side of TimeHop. It reminds me, with that startling objectivity of technology, what has gone before. In case I am tempted to peek wistfully over the hedge at the developmental line, it puts my money down on fate and chance and a belief that there is a pattern to the randomness.

It offers me proof that the path we follow might not be linear, but it is leading somewhere big — cash-in-your-chips big. If I let it, it reminds me that both the recent and distant past are sending messages of hope. But first, I need my coffee.