In an age of instant communication and 24-hour rolling news, the notion of posterity may seem rather quaint. The emphasis is on the now, with scant consideration for what might happen a few weeks - let alone a few years - from now.
One new app aims to put long-term thinking back in the spotlight, by providing users with a platform to delay the release of their text messages for up to 25 years. Launched last month, Incubate Messenger is the innovation of Atlanta-based entrepreneur Michael McCluney.
Incubate’s uses aren’t immediately obvious but, according to McCluney, it doesn’t take long for people to ‘think of reasons they need to strategically time [a] message’ when you give them the functionality. Those reasons range from forgetful spouses priming an anniversary text message months ahead of the date, to soldiers on tour sending a time-delayed SMS to their kids when they know they’ll be unable to reach a phone on duty. In addition to SMS messaging, movies, photos and audio messages are also catered for by the app.
McCluney’s lightbulb moment came when an exhausted friend - and father of triplets - told him of the nightly struggles tending to three 3-month-old babies. The developer suggested his friend make audio recordings to capture the chaos of a trio of screaming infants in the middle of the night. Wouldn’t it be great if Dad could somehow share these moments with his kids when they were old enough to laugh at their tiny selves?
That exchange inspired one of Incubate’s unique features: Nursery. The feature allows parents to send time-delayed messages to their kids from the moment they are born. Parents simply create an account, which their child can access when they get their first mobile device. Anyone with an account can exchange messages and see how many messages await them in the future but - and here’s the clever bit - they can’t access the message or see the identity of the sender until the date set by the sender. Having a mystery text message that you can’t read for 25 years is the ultimate in delayed gratification, and a masterstroke of an emotional hook.
Asynchronous communication is not entirely new. Boomerang and Gmail both have options for time-delayed messages, as do Vine and Snapchat. But Incubate aims to promote the sharing of information with a little more gravitas than photographs of desserts. It’s about creating a time capsule capable of creating a bond through space and time. Until now, a dewy-eyed father packing his kid off to college can do his best to reminisce about his youth - and probably get rolled eyes and groans in return. With Incubate, it’s possible to capture and store precious memories as they happen, and share them in the future when they’ve taken on new significance.