We Asked a Bunch of Strangers to Explain Their iPhone Notes

If you want to know a person's private life, don't read their messages – read what's in their Notes app.
January 30, 2020, 3:54pm
iPhone Notes App Strangers secrets private thoughts memories
Photo by Emily Bowler

Terrible poèmes you wrote on the nightbus. Sad little drafts of messages to somebody from Tinder you were kind of seeing ten months ago. Deranged 3AM reminders to buy cat litter alongside your National Insurance Number. Two contradicting summaries of how much each of your housemates owes one another. A recipe for Thai noodle salad. Three book recommendations spliced with notes from a call from your energy supplier. And a list of all the people you’ve shagged, next to their star signs. Phone notes are a strange, lawless place.


In a few decades, when climate change kills human life on Earth and aliens seize the planet, the extraterrestrial anthropologists will just need somebody’s list of potential band names or screenplay ideas to understand the depraved, mundane and nonsensical nature of the human condition. And, if you really think about it, some of those odd little fragments hidden in your notes app are probably all anyone would need to blackmail you into doing a murder. Your teenage diary wants what your notes app has. With that in mind, we went around asking a few obliging strangers to show us one of their phone notes, send it to us and explain what the hell they’re on about.

“It was me telling myself not to ghost people”

iPhone Notes App Strangers Vox Pop VICE 2020

I think this is a drawing by this girl I was dating for a few months last year. It was me telling myself not to ghost people, which I think is really unfair because I don’t think I do ghost people and I absolutely did not ghost her in the end. I broke things off with her in a pub and she stormed off and we haven’t spoken since. She actually lives a couple of streets away from me but weirdly I haven’t seen her, apart from once having to hide from her in the supermarket. Maybe she’s moved. Antony

“My notes app is reserved for my Big Thoughts”

iPhones Notes App Strangers Vox Pop VICE 2020

My notes app is reserved for my Big Thoughts, like this bad poem that I think I must have written when I went to that Tate Modern Picasso exhibition a couple of years ago, which seems to be my musings about whether Picasso is overrated. Impossible to say, really. Lola

“I still think the DJ is a nonce”

iPhone Notes App Strangers Vox Pop VICE 2020

As you can probably guess from the 4AM timestamp, I wrote this after quite a few shots on a trashy night out at this High School Musical-themed club night. I’d seen two of my mum’s friends' kids in the club making out with the DJ and I think, in my drunk logic, I wanted to write it down because I thought they were still underage. The DJ was a middle-aged man, so I was worried and wanted to remember to tell my mum about it the next day. They’re both actually over 18, but I still think the DJ is a nonce. Scarlett

“John? Who was he? We'll never know”

iPhone Notes App Strangers Vox Pop VICE 2020

Looks like this is me trying to remember everyone I've ever slept with. As you can see from the list, I switch genders halfway through. I spent a lot of my university years drunkenly hooking up with guys, then, when I left, realised I was more into women. A couple of the people on this list are long-term serious partners. A couple are more casual hookups. And a couple are one-night stands I can barely remember. Like, "John"? Who was he? We'll never know. Bee

“I was really baked”

iPhone Notes App Strangers Vox Pop VICE 2020

I wrote this one at a house party. I think the first bit is something that I overheard this stoned Canadian guy say and I thought it was funny so I wrote it down. The second bit is me typing out a message to the person controlling the laptop because I couldn’t stop laughing enough to talk. I was trying to tell them to check out that PowerPoint presentation about Jack Antonoff and Lorde’s secret affair. I was really baked. Omar

“This note is less of a reminder to myself, and more of an affirmation”

iPhone Notes App Strangers Vox Pop VICE

I would say this note is less of a reminder to myself, and more of an affirmation? Around the time I wrote this I'd been worrying that other people thought I was passive, or that I allowed people to treat me in a certain way because I was afraid to call them out. But that's never been the case. It's actually the opposite. I can be so reactive and kneejerk that I often actively try to exercise some calmness and pacivity in a bid to be more self aware and healthy. Does that make any sense? Well anyway, this was me telling myself that. Akira.

“At the time I was definitely like 'yeah this is fucking deep and cerebral'”

iPhone Notes App Strangers Vox Pop VICE 2020

I’ve accidentally edited the date now so I can’t go back and check but I think this was the early hours of the morning and I was drunk and manically coming up with an idea for an art piece while probably simultaneously going through a breakup situation with my ex-girlfriend and like trying to put out some really great artistic ramblings with intense meanings in them. At the time I was definitely like “yeah this is fucking deep and cerebral.” But now I’m just like… “Hmmm, that was either very manic of me or just a very bad art idea." Antonia

“I’ve stuck with this pre-uni recipe ever since”

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This is a recipe for a curry that I wrote down before I went to uni. I didn’t know how to cook anything but my stepdad made curry a lot and this seemed manageable. I guess I’ve stuck with this recipe ever since. Lauren

“A lot of my phone notes are just drunk nonsense”

iPhone Notes App Strangers Vox Pop VICE 2020

I work at a brewery and honestly a lot of my phone notes are just drunk nonsense and boring work-related lists. I have a tendency to write little descriptions of people I see when I’m pissed, like this one which is obviously a salient commentary on technology and social isolation. Greg