The Difference Between Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday

Which hashtag should you use?

If you spend any amount of time on social media or online in general, you've probably heard of two very popular social sharing trends — Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday. And even if you've followed and participated in the trend yourself, you may still be confused about what the difference is between the two.

For those who don't know about Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday, here's the gist of it: Social media users, bloggers, and even brands will post some type of content (like a photo, a video or a song) from the past and then they'll tag it with #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT if they're posting it on a Thursday. If it's Friday, they'll tag it with #FlashbackFriday or #FBF.

Sounds simple enough? It is, but why do we need both of them if they seem so similar?

Exploring the Difference Between the Two Hashtag Games

An illustration of people on their mobile devices using the #tbt and #fbf hashtags.
 Nusha Ashjaee ©Lifewire

It's not exactly clear where Throwback Thursday originated from, but according to Digital Trends, Instagram user @bobbysanders22 was the first known user to post the hashtag back in 2011. And if you take a look at the ​Google Trends chart for Throwback Thursday, you'll notice that the trend really took off in early 2012.

Throwback Thursday is arguably more popular and used more often than Flashback Friday, perhaps because Thursday is first to arrive during the week and it's also the one day when ​major social media activity takes place. Interestingly enough, if you take a look at the Google Trends chart for Flashback Friday, you should see that its growth actually started to take off several months before Throwback Thursday did.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of the word "throwback" is: a person or thing that is similar to someone or something from the past or that is suited to an earlier time. In comparison, the word "flashback," actually has two definitions: a part of a story or movie that describes or shows something that happened in the past, or a strong memory of a past event that comes suddenly into a person's mind.

These definitions may differ slightly, but when you get right down to it to put it in simple terms, both are used to describe the act of reflecting back upon memories of the past. And when you try to capture that type of experience by sharing it in a post on social media, it's difficult to emphasize a difference between the two. That's why content shared for each hashtag is so similar.

Users Treat Content Sharing for Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday As Exactly the Same

If you had a gut feeling that Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday were too similar to post differently on each day, you were right. Because each hashtag game is so open-ended and doesn't come with any real rules to follow, there are no significant differences between the two.

You could post a photo of yourself from 10 years ago for Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday and you wouldn't be wrong for deciding on either day to post it. Given the time zone differences across the world and the subjective matter of what's considered to be a blast from the past (which could literally be anything from a couple days ago to as long as 50 or more years ago), you'll even see lots of users stray far from following the general rules — ​posting photos or videos with no nostalgic quality at all or making their #ThrowbackThursday posts on a Sunday for whatever reason.

Throwback Thursday Vs. Flashback Friday Summary:

  • Both Throwback Thursday and Flashback Friday hashtag games involve the activity of posting some type of nostalgic content from the past on social media.
  • There is no significant difference between the type of past/nostalgic content meant to be shared through each weekly hashtag.
  • In general, you should use #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT if you're posting on a Thursday, and #FlashbackFriday or #FBF if you're posting on a Friday, regardless of whatever nostalgic content you want to share.
  • Throwback Thursday is more popular likely because it arrives before Friday and it's a day when social sharing is highest in comparison to other weekdays.
  • Flashback Friday is useful for people who forget to post on Thursday, or for people who enjoy Throwback Thursday so much that they'd prefer to post as much and as often as they can. (Two days a week is better than one!)