How Facebook’s ‘On This Day’ App Tortures Parents Every Single Day

Photo: courtesy of the author

As a parent, Facebook, I have to tell you… the “On This Day” photo app…

It’s KILLING me.

Absolutely killing me.

I login to my Facebook page, expecting to see some vacation pictures, a few rants about the news, maybe a like or a comment for the funny status update I posted before bed the previous night. And then… BOOM, On This Day hits me with a picture of my daughter as a baby.

A picture I’d forgotten. A picture I barely recognize because the daughter currently sitting next to me at the breakfast table doesn’t look like that girl anymore.

The baby is gone from her face. She’s closer to high school than preschool now.

I love baby pictures, don’t get me wrong. Parents are addicted to baby photos.

I have gigabytes of space taken up on my phone because I simply don’t trust the cloud to provide me access to all the pictures of my kid whenever I need to see them.

But, Facebook, you like to sneak attack me, don’t you?

You hit me when I don’t expect it. There’s no way I could remember that we went to an apple orchard on this day eight years ago. Or that, five years ago, we were sitting in the cheap seats at a baseball game, getting sunburned and making jokes about the players’ pictures on the jumbotron.

I remember the big anniversaries — the birthdays, graduations, the holidays. But On This Day… it’s all about those sneaky minor-yet-major moments that get lost in time and then hit you like a ton of bricks when they magically appear on your phone every morning.

Wait, she lost her first tooth seven years ago TODAY? Why did I not remember that? How could I forget this picture that Facebook jolted back into my consciousness with no prelude or preparation?

Why does Facebook do this? I mean, overall, I like the way the On This Day app helps me remember those moments as a parent. It makes me nostalgic and weepy. My question is — why does Facebook so tightly control how I access these memories?

Because you can’t go into Facebook and easily say “Show me what I was posting in April 2009.” There’s no browseable timeline feature. You can’t really search within your own comments, updates, and photos in a particularly intuitive fashion.

You can scroll down, down, down in your timeline, pressing “See More,” but it’s clunky and time-consuming and you tend to get lost as you go.

“Lost” is a good word for Facebook. I feed it with my life story every day — my thoughts, pictures, and ephemera. It’s recorded there, like a diary with a tricky combination lock that only allows me to open a few pages at a time. And I’m OK with that.

Until, that is, I wake up every morning and On This Day knocks me on my ass.

Here’s the school play you forgot about, Dad. Here’s the selfie you took at the ice cream store. Here’s the moment when your daughter wasn’t looking and you had, you just HAD to take a picture, because that look on her face was so sublime that you needed to capture it, share it with the world, and get 51 likes and 10 comments on it.

I don’t know if I love or hate On This Day at this point.

I don’t want those memories to disappear, but Facebook can be a cruel historian. It doesn’t know when I’m feeling like a failure as a parent. Or when I’m dying on the inside because my kid just watched her fourth R-rated movie and she used to make us turn off any movie with a bad guy in it when she was a toddler (which was EVERY movie, by the way) because she simply could not take it.

Or when I’m just so aware of how much I love my kid that my heart hurts. It hurts so goddamn bad.

But, every morning, without any consideration of how I’m feeling, Facebook throws those images into my face and punches me in the dad ovaries every time.

I wake up and I see that orange header that says “7 Years Ago. See Your Memories” and I click EVERY TIME because, even though it hurts, I will take what I can get.

Because that’s what it’s like being a parent. You have this deep well of emotions that are so vivid and sharp that they slice both ways and you allow yourself to be cut, you invite that pain into your life, because the alternative is never feeling those emotions again and who’s dumb enough to do that?

So, thanks for being a dick, Facebook. On This Day tortures me daily, but I don’t know that I ever want it to stop.