Filming my life, one second at a time

Long, long ago, I spent the evening of 31 December 2019 with my family. As midnight approached, we all stared at the clock, preparing to count down to the start of the new decade.

My brother’s girlfriend grabbed her phone. She wanted to film the countdown – not the whole thing, just the last second.

The second, she explained, was for an app called 1 Second Everyday. 1SE is essentially a video journal. It gives you a calendar to populate with individual one-second videos, then compiles them into a montage. It lets you document your life, not for social media, but for your own satisfaction and reflection. She showed us her 2019 video – fragments of her reading books, meeting friends, running for the bus – all together building a vision of her everyday life.

This sounded like fun to me. I didn’t know if I’d stick with it, but I downloaded the app anyway, then went outside and filmed one second of fireworks.

I now have more than two minutes of video, documenting every day so far in 2020. So I guess I did stick with it.

Okay, I’ve cheated slightly – there have been a handful of days I’ve forgotten and had to fudge by filming an additional clip the following day. My days are not unique enough to make this inaccurate, so I think the spirit of the video remains intact.

There’s definitely some delayed satisfaction with 1SE. Filming my early clips felt a bit meaningless. But as my montage accumulated, I started to find it more rewarding. The rhythms of my own life emerged – commuting to work, going to the gym, eating dinner while watching The Office.

As 2020 progressed, those rhythms shifted drastically. January’s seconds included sitting in my favourite café and visiting friends in London. March had me working from home and staring at an empty loo roll aisle at the supermarket. And now, in May, I have countless shots of sitting around my flat, staring out the window or at a video chat. Also I’ve finished The Office.

Most of the seconds I film are impulsive and low-effort. But if I’m in the mood to pretend I’m an aesthetic YouTube vlogger, I will tinker around with the framing, or maybe even the background noise. I shot multiple takes of me doing the washing-up earlier today, which is how you know the quarantine boredom has really set in. But it certainly documents my Saturday 9 May 2020.

It’s getting kind of hard to find interesting seconds to shoot. Often I just end up filming another screen. But it definitely feels like an accurate reflection of my life at the moment. Not polished up for Instagram, but as it’s actually been. A memo to Future Me.

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