In Internet Glossary

TBT: What is Throwback Thursday?


If you’re active on any social network on a Thursday, you’ll likely see some mention of “TBT” or “Throwback Thursday,” especially as it’s become more popular in the past year and a half. Throwback Thursday, abbreviated to “TBT,” is a meme that many people participate in on social networks. TBT can be seen on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and even Instagram. On Thursdays, people will post or re-post images that are older. These images may be individual portraits or group photos. Sometimes the photos don’t depict people at all.

The point of TBT is to showcase how a person has changed or what a person was doing in their life several years ago. It can motivate people to reconnect with old fiends, provide a reminder of happy memories or simply show personal growth over the years.

You can find public Throwback Thursday posts by following the hashtag #TBT on sites that support hashtags. However, not everyone will use the hashtag or have public posts for you to browse. Some people may simply use the TBT acronym instead of the hashtag.

History of Throwback Thursday

While TBT has become more popular in late 2014 — the hashtag has been used approximately 200 million times on Instagram — it’s been around for some time. In fact, the very first mention of Throwback Thursday was on a site called Throwback Thursday was originally a day on which the owner would post photos of older shoes that he still liked.

Since then, TBT slowly made its way to Twitter, and it’s now common on Instagram and Facebook, where it’s easy to reshare photos that were previously uploaded. In 2011, TBT really took off on Instagram, which supported hashtags long before Facebook finally got on board with the trend.

The Popularity of Hashtag Memes and TBT

Throwback Thursday is also just one of several daily memes that you can follow via hashtags online. Others include:

  • #wcw — Woman Crush Wednesday
  • #mcm — Man Crush Monday
  • #fbf — Flashback Friday

All of these hashtags experience varying degrees of popularity, but Throwback Thursday still reigns supreme. Throwback Thursday isn’t just loved by the mainstream. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Beyonce and even First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama has used the trend. Talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres posts a weekly picture where her face has been imposed over the face of another person in a hilarious homage to Throwback Thursday.

However, Throwback Thursday can also be a somber occasion. Consider when actor James Van Der Beek posted a photo of him on set with Paul Walker shortly after Walker’s death in an automobile accident. The team who operates President Obama’s social media accounts also added a photo with the hashtag discussing recent events involving the Supreme Court allow some employers to refuse to cover employees’ birth control as part of health care plans. The image used a mock ad instructing people to talk to their boss rather than their doctor about birth control options.

Even businesses get involved with the trend as a way to highlight that they are trendy and in touch with modern society. For example, General Electric has posted TBTs. When social media users click on hashtags, they’ll see these photos, which is one way that companies remain relevant in a world where print media and mainstream TV are quickly falling out of popularity. Thursdays have also become the one day of the week where photos showing a look behind the scenes into movies, TV shows, recording sessions and other creative projects has become the norm.

Safely Post a Throwback Thursday Photo

Throwback Thursday can be a lot of fun, but participants should beware of information they might accidentally provide information to people who do not need to know this. Here are some photos that you want to stay away from:

  • Photos showing addresses/number plates in the background
  • Images that include the make and model or license plates
  • Photos that show the location of schools, daycare or place of employment

Furthermore, we recommend against people posting pictures of others without their permission, especially if there are children in those photos. Parents can make choosing a photo for their children to post a fun activity that allows enables them to check a photo’s appropriateness for posting online. In fact, photos that are scanned and are notable aged are ideal for posting as part of this meme, and going through the family photo albums can be a fantastic way to bond.

Throwback with the Best of Them

How can you participate in Throwback Thursday like a pro? Here are a few guidelines:

  • Post on Thursday early enough in the day that your photo will get traction before Friday.
  • Use the hashtag #tbt. You may also use #throwbackthursday.
  • Pick a photo that is older. It may even be of you as a child or baby! You should look noticeable different in the photo.
  • Don’t just choose a selfie. Choose a photo where you’re doing something of note to get more interest in your photo. Family vacations, strange hairstyles or a toddler temper tantrum are all memorable TBT photos. Use Thursday to depict before and after shots of weight loss, cross training or even a haircut.
  • Post only one or two TBT photos every Thursday.
  • Comment on other users’ Throwback Thursday posts.

Participating in memes like this can be a lot of fun, and you can even get to know how a social network works by using the hashtags. It’s certainly interesting to learn more about friends who post a photo and TBT quote from before you knew them. With a bit of common sense, your TBT photos can be more nostalgic and safe while providing your Facebook or Instagram friends with another view of yourself. You might even make new friends in the process!

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