One late afternoon in 2015, I was passing through the Western Ghats to meet a little girl. She had a talent for art, a newly constructed house, a loving family, and only a few weeks left to live.
That summer, I was writing a book about terminally ill children across India to help raise money for their treatment. At the end of the summer, I sent each family a glass jar filled with notes, drawings, memories, and stories their child had shared with me. And that’s how my tryst with “memory jars” began.
But memory jars – and traditions of recording and sharing memories – aren’t exactly a new concept. They’ve been around for centuries, ranging from the Ancient American forget-me-not-jugs, to Hindu traditions of sharing memories about the deceased at funerals, to old storage boxes filled with love letters and hidden away in boudoirs. Some people even started the year with empty glass jars, added a note each week with one good thing that happened, and revisited their entire year on New Year’s Eve.
The more I learned, the more fascinated I became with memory jars. So for my final year thesis in college, I focused on designing a technology platform based on memory jars. That was around 2018, when we were seeing many news pieces about mental health concerns around existing media sharing platforms. I wanted to make sure our memory jar platform was different in that it could make us feel happy, and good about ourselves for a change.
We kept iterating on the design until our psychology studies showed that even a few minutes with memory jars increased happiness, reduced loneliness, and improved psychological well being. So we launched our memory jar experience as an app, with 5 core principles to make it a more human social media platform:
The person you are on a date is different from the person you are at work, and the person you become at the gym is different from the person you are with family. Yet, most apps only give users one space -- typically a "profile" -- to document all their experiences. And these experiences get shared with all your followers, regardless of whether they’re friends or family or colleagues or the random person at your gym. That's why we came up with the option for each user to have multiple memory jars instead of a single profile -- you can create different jars for each hobby, group, person, and more in your life. And then you can invite the relevant people into different memory jars, so you get to enjoy all different parts of your identity with only the people who matter - without the pressure to manicure your profile or portray yourself in a certain way.
Research has shown that existing social media platforms draw us into a vicious, addictive cycle - you post something, you get a reaction, the reward center of your brain lights up (more specifically, you release dopamine, a “pleasure chemical”), and then you go back for more and larger hits of dopamine. You post more, crave more likes, and actually feel disappointed - even borderline depressed - when you get less of a reaction than anticipated. This entire addictive cycle affects life just as addiction to alcohol and drug does - not only in terms of our brain chemistry, but also by being correlated with reduced sleep quality, higher rates of depression, increasing loneliness, lower self esteem and general lower psychological well being. We wanted Lumhaa to be different - we wanted it to make people feel welcome and loved by inducing oxytocin (the “love/trust hormone”) instead of the addictive dopamine. We wanted Lumhaa to be a place where people chose love over “likes”. And we worked through years of psychology research to make that happen.
Most experiences in our lives are shared experiences -- we go on trips with friends, raise children as a family, and grow businesses as a team. Yet most apps we use to share and document our experiences are more like “broadcasts”, where one of us shares something and the other people simply react to it. We wanted to create spaces where multiple people can post about shared experiences together -- like a memory jar where an entire sports team documents their final season together. Or where both people in a relationship contribute memories about their love story. Or even a jar where a baby’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended family post memories from the baby’s life, rather than just reacting to what the parents post. We’ve always wanted Lumhaa’s jars to feel more like conversations than like broadcasts, because it’s more fun and meaningful to document our favorite memories with the people who matter. After all, life is better together!
Your memories should be between you and the people you care about - you should be able to enjoy your memories without interruptions from influencers and algorithms and advertisers. We genuinely believe that privacy is a right, not a privilege. That’s why we’re committed to privacy -- without requiring that you pay for it. We do not, and will never, accept ads or sell your data (our revenue comes through payments for premium jars, subscriptions from schools/colleges, and physical products). Plus, Lumhaa’s memory jars are constructed in a way that you have total control over your privacy -- by default, only you and the people you invite to your memory jar can see what is inside it. You and your memories are safe here!
When you fill a memory jar or get a physical product to celebrate your memories, you feel great. When you realize that your purchase helped someone, you feel even better. That’s why at least one piece of every physical product at Lumhaa is handcrafted with love by an artist in a small village somewhere in India. Every time you shop at Lumhaa, you help someone pay for their child’s education, preserve their ancestral craft, survive independently outside an abusive home, get medical treatment for ailing family members, or even earn a steady stream of dignified income. Each product comes with a thank you note and story about the artist you supported through your purchase -- you make the world a tiny bit better when your smile sponsors another smile. Plus, our physical products are made from sustainable materials like recycled t shirts for packaging and marigold seeds for paper, so your purchases are good for you, our world, and our planet :)
Lumhaa has come a long way since then. It’s grown to almost 200 countries, and has made Top 100 social app charts in over 60 countries. It’s created and shipped thousands of customized physical products, and helped dozens of artists earn a dignified source of income. It’s even expanded into custom memory jar offerings for schools and family trees.
But Lumhaa is nothing without you all.
So whether you’re here because you’re creating a memory jar with the best moments of every year of your life, or because you’re collecting wishes for a birthday, or because you’re building a secret corner with your special someone, I hope Lumhaa has made you smile.
And that you stay.
All the way to forever.