The Beautiful Chaos of the Notes App
By Madison Malone Kircher
We recently asked you, the readers of this newsletter, to bare your souls. In other words: We asked you to share the contents of your Notes apps with us, and the world.
You did not disappoint.
From a reader named Michelle: “There is a snail that can rip its own head from its body and regenerate a new one, mouth and all. It’s thought they do that to rid themselves of parasites. This is amazing!”
Thank you, Michelle, for this information that I hope none of us ever need to use. [Ed: that sounds like the sacoglossan sea slug.]
The rest of the notes were similarly chaotic: A list of fictional cocktails from a reader named Penny, the specifics of a puppy’s bowel movements from Bruce and — my personal favorite — a selection of songs Melissa is compiling to be played at her funeral. (“Everybody Eats When They Come to My House” is the closer.)
As we told you last month, the latest TikTok trend is for users to share their Notes app screenshots, usually alongside text that says something like “never go through a girl’s Notes app.” The subtext being that we are stranger, less organized, less shielded versions of ourselves in Notes than we are on, say, Twitter or Instagram. We’re literally writing notes to self.
Notes has been around since the release of the original iPhone in 2007 (and before then, I hear that there was something called a “notebook”?) Way more sophisticated digital note-taking tools like Evernote and Notion have evolved since then, and some have gained obsessive followings among the very online Type-A crowd.
But if your responses are any indication, what winds up in the Notes app is a million times more haphazard than the color-coded workout schedules and bullet journals that dominate those other apps. Notes is mostly an unstructured brain dump; a destination for the random thoughts we offload while we’re in the middle of something else.
A reader named Hillary shared a list of nonsense words overheard at a conference, including “forethoughtful,” “planfully” and “applicationize.” In his Notes app, Mark wrote a sentence to illustrate the meaning of the word “fugacious” (adj. tending to disappear): “I had a fugacious look at that bird before it dove into thick brush, never to be seen again by me.”
Even the most mundane stuff in Notes can be a kind of time capsule. One of the most touching notes we got was from Janet, who sent her play-by-play for Thanksgiving in 2020. She had tomato bisque and a salad with a pepper jelly vinaigrette (yum!) before 5:30 cocktails and a family Zoom. The big turkey dinner, which was just for two, still took days of preparation: She made the pie crusts Tuesday, the bisque Wednesday and the stuffing Thursday.
Barbara found a note from six years ago with the title “REMEMBER.” The listed items were “Whole order 40, Bus 6402” and “Be happy be nice be grateful.” She said she did not have any idea why she wrote the first two. But the last one, at least, is not such a bad thing for all of us to try to remember.
Thanks to everyone who wrote in — seriously, I feel like I know you way, way better now.
Here’s what else is happening online this week.
Sharing your location with your friends: Yes or no?
Everything you need to know about Ice Spice.
Why everyone’s skin looks so smooth on the internet.
This YouTuber vanished. Now she’s got some things to say.
Be careful how loudly you play that new Zelda game.
To post, or not to post, your baby
This is a debate we’re almost certainly going to keep having as the generation of children raised entirely in the era of Instagram come of age.
I really enjoyed this interview with an anonymous internet child star laying bare what growing up online really meant, from Teen Vogue earlier this spring. (Spoiler: They did not enjoy having their existence mined for content.) More recently, this piece from The Atlantic got me thinking about everyday, normal people: The children whose first steps and tantrums and jam-covered faces weren’t posted as content meant to make money, but were posted as content nonetheless.
I don’t have kids, and my ’90s childhood — while exceedingly well documented — was never digitized for easy sharing. Which is all to say, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I have the answer. But I am curious if you do? Is there an ethical way to share your kid’s life online? How are you navigating this particular digital minefield? Send us an email — responses may be featured in a future newsletter.
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Callie Holtermann contributed reporting to this newsletter.
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