“This is a picture of me when I was younger.”
“Every picture of you is a picture of you when you were younger.” – Mitch Hedberg
Well, it’s Halloween. But it’s also a Thursday-- which means it’s time to throw it back. But how far? What qualifies as a throwback picture? And what’s the appropriate level of participation? Posting a nostalgic picture on Instagram or Facebook to celebrate Throwback Thursday (#TBT) seems like a simple enough concept. But as any participant knows, far too many people struggle with it. It’s time we establish some guidelines.
You can’t throw it back to last year. That’s like getting together with friends just to reminisce about all the good times you had earlier that night. It’s a lazy, unimaginative, waste of time. If someone wanted to see your pictures from last year, they should be able to flip a little further through your albums. There must be a minimum age requirement for photos to qualify.
Four years seems like a reasonable amount of time. It’s the length of a presidential term, the time between major international sporting competitions, and perhaps most importantly, the duration of college and high school. If you’re in your mid-20s, you can throw it back to college. College, throw back to high school. High school, all clear to throw it back to grade school. Even a senior retrospective TBT of your freshman year is fine.
If you look exactly the same now as you did in the picture you are about to post, there should be another reason to post it. My LinkedIn photo is four years old. I’m probably due for an upgrade, but pictures of me looking professional are hard to come by. I also don’t look that much different (at least I’d like to think so). Just as there’s no need to change a photo if you look the same, a photo doesn’t bare sharing on #TBT if it's not somehow antiquated. In the unlikely event of an octogenarian taking part in the throwback, the photo’s age requirement should be somewhat proportional. I’m thinking daguerreotypes, or at least something in sepia tone.
This should go without saying, but your throwback should either be a photographic that you took, or has you pictured in it. Do not post text. If you want to post a status or tweet, there are other places for that.
There should also be a limit to how many TBT photos—or any posts for that matter—that one shares on their Instagram or Facebook each day. I think averaging 1.5 posts a day on either site is the limit. That’s one-and-a-half, for those of you who think it’s OK to post 15 pictures of yourself in a day, because unless you’re Rihanna, it’s not OK. Make your contribution, but don’t dominate your friends’ feeds to the point that everything is about you. You get one contribution to TBT each week, make it count. This isn’t a sweepstakes. There’s no prize for best TBT photo, so submitting multiple entries won’t help you win anything.
One shouldn’t post a TBT photo just for the sake of participating. There should be a reason for the post. Usually the message is, “Hey, look how much younger I looked back then.” Or, if you want to be a better sport and break from the navel-gazing social norm, post a group photo that says, “Hey, look how young we look here.”
Mix it up. Thursdays shouldn’t be an opportunity to post yet another photo from that shoebox marked Baby’s First Christmas. If you must share something every week, make sure it’s not from the same era of your life.
The best throwbacks have timeliness. Observing anniversaries, special occasions, and times of year can provide inspiration. Obviously , today is Halloween, so pictures of costumes past are de rigueur. It’s also the five year anniversary of the Phillies’ World Series parade. So if you don't have any old Halloween photos, why not post a memorable picture from that season?
Limit your hashtags. Besides the obligatory #tbt or #throwbackthursday, one or two additional tags should get the job done. None of this nonsense on every photo: #takemeback #soyoung #missit #silly #friends #whatwerewethinking #love #cuties #soodumb #mileycyrus #summer
Keep Holy the Throweth Day
It was decreed that Thursday is the day when we shall throw it back. Thou shalt not throweth on any other day. Stop trying to make #wbw for “Way Back Wednesday” happen. Your picture really couldn’t wait one more day? No nostalgia photo is that urgent. #FBF (Flashback Friday)? That’s right out.
Now that I’ve gone and sucked all the fun out of this activity with unsolicited rules, I wish you a Happy Halloween and Throwback Thursday. Have fun throwing it back, and be sure to propose your own #TBT rules in the comments below.