In the spring semester of my senior year of college I had a full class schedule, worked 30 hours a week as an editor at my campus newspaper, and was finishing up a short novel for my creative writing thesis. I also got mono—and this spring, I got to relive the slow, painful misery of that experience again thanks to a little app called TimeHop.
In case you're unfamiliar with it, TimeHop connects to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and various other social media streams and presents you with a daily "time capsule" of all the asinine things you posted last year, two years ago, three years ago, and beyond. For the most part it's an amusing little diversion, and a way of reconnecting with the seemingly-ephemeral social media streams that we so rarely revisit. It's a flashback to a single moment at a different time in your life. Whether or not you want to relive that moment is another matter.
Lots of people get infectious mononucleosis in high school or college. It's highly contagious and spread through saliva, so if you're kissing anyone new or liberally swapping beer bottles in the dorm, you're pretty much asking for it. It's mild in the scheme of infectious diseases, but believe me, it's no fun. The doctor who finally diagnosed me explained there is a spectrum for how severely a person experiences the disease, and mine was the worst she had ever seen.
My depressing reminiscence started in February. I was checking TimeHop on my way to the subway and saw a Facebook status from four years past:
This whole status is embarrassing for a lot of reasons (thinking a cold is a hangover, using a hashtag on Facebook, referencing a tired meme), but reading it made me feel such sympathy for four-years-ago me. "You have no idea what's coming," I thought.
In the days and weeks that followed, I witnessed my prior self's agonizingly slow realization that this wasn't just a hangover, or a cold, or the flu, but something worse. I was exhausted, had an excruciating sore throat, my lymph nodes in my neck swelled, and for some reason the skin around my eyes puffed up. I tried to rest as much as I could while still juggling my regular schedule (a terrible idea).
After two weeks I was properly diagnosed and spent another week semi-conscious in bed at my parents' house. It was the sickest I'd ever been and it scared the hell out of me, and I was still weak and tired for a few months after I recovered. Reliving the whole process, day-by-day—in real time, yet four years removed—was both uncanny and unsettling.
So much of what we post online feels temporary. We know it's there and there is some comfort in preserving these archives of our quotidian experiences, but rarely if ever do we bother to dig into our own libraries and revisit the past. That's the fun of apps like TimeHop, but it's also the fear. Around the time I was re-reading these status updates this year, I caught some kind of infection. My throat got sore. I felt exhausted, weak, and my lymph nodes swelled into hard, smooth acorns on either side of my throat. I recovered after a few days, but not before falling into a quiet panic.
"I'm worried it's mono," I texted my boyfriend.
"You can't get it more than once," he shot back.
But in a way, I already had.