I’ve got a theory that nothing captures the great patchwork of modern life quite so well as the average iPhone Note collection. Scroll through yours now and you’re likely to enter a weird, wonderful, erratic, esoteric world populated by your most inane and intimate thoughts.
In this intriguing realm, packing lists, passwords and meal plans may stand beside poetry, revelation, and agonisingly drafted, ultimately unsaid, sentiment. That’s the thing that sets notes apart from most of our digital output – they are infrequently shared, not just convenient but private too. It’s an immediate, incautious form that’s often incomprehensible in retrospect: one of mine reads, simply, “Friends v turkey”. Another begins “D bag. Toes? Razor”. Maybe lockdown has left me with too much time on my hands, but I think our notes might reveal more about our lives than any diary could, forming an accidental chronicle of our lives.
And like any form of self-expression, everyone is drawn to a particular style. Extensive research – conducted largely via my WhatsApp groups – revealed a vast array of notes, and no shortage of amusement. But from the dream diaries, text templates, secret sonnets and endless shopping lists, distinctive note-taking characters took shape. Whichever you identify most with, the key is to write notes with abandon and read them back months later for bemused entertainment.
Books, restaurants, travel tips (ha!), exfoliating toners, comfortable pants – you can spot a reco hoarder a mile off because the moment you mention something good they’ll be telling you to “WAIT!” while they reach for their phone. “Hoarder” is a bit harsh, actually, so the next time I find myself in Lisbon wondering how to spend 48 hours (dare to dream) or need to find a good tapas place in Soho (or on Deliveroo), I shall eat my words and call upon you, O sage collector of experience and endorsement. Whether or not you share your acquired wisdom is entirely up to you.
To-buy, to-pack, to-do, to-be, not-to-be – there’s no limit to your listing prowess. Lists needn’t be actually completed, nor started for that matter, though the most sophisticated make use of the tick box function for extra satisfaction. When the supermarket is the only option for sartorial debuts and social(ly distanced) interaction, your shopping lists really come into their own – there’s enough going on without trying to remember whether you’ve run out of oat milk.
IT wizards would balk at the sketchy security of your methods, but how else are you to recall the endless passwords, usernames and pin numbers necessary to unlock your digital life? Conceal these with a code where possible – ideally one you’ll remember weeks down the line.
You’re on the tube (or post-Zoom), you failed to say no to one prosecco for the road (or stairs), but by some curious twist of fate this is the precise moment you can most eloquently express a) everything that’s wrong with your partner, b) exactly what you want to say at your next work review, and c) a book proposal. When inspiration and clarity collide at such an unexpected moment, notes are your salvation – just watch out for prying eyes in the next seat along.
One day, you’ll write them all out in a Word Doc, but for now, your poetry is confined to notes. The app affords a privacy your Moleskine never quite could, although you’re actually thinking of starting a poetry Instagram account soon. Curse the haters, budding bard! You’ve got precedent – plenty of modern day greats began in this humble realm. Tap on and, after a few margaritas to make the experience slightly less mortifying, send screenshots of your best work to a willing friend.
If the two words you fear most are “is typing”, you, friend, are a perennial drafter. The PD knows that the perfect form in which to draft the awkward email or like-affirming caption is the note. Sharing these is purely optional; in fact, some of the biggest drafters in the game will have legions of unsent messages to irksome managers, unsaid speeches to irrational partners and unposted fodder for contrary followers lying safely in-app.
You can commit to meal planning and have an insatiable appetite for “reps” and, for this, I salute you. It’s January, so every measly note-taker is attempting to join your sculpted ranks – do them a favour and share your hard-earned workouts, wellness tips and macro counts via screenshot.
Dreams, thought dumps, in-uber post-date chronicles – there’s not a doubt in your mind that notes surpass the traditional diary. Even Bridget Jones had moved to an iPad by the third film. Occasional diarists have the greatest read-back pleasure, so the more detail the better, though with subject matter decidedly thin on the ground at the moment, brevity is excusable.