I’ve always liked scrapbooking. When I was younger this involved collecting anything that could be tamed with a Pritt Stick: train tickets, sea shells, sweet wrappers. Summer holidays were preserved in the mundane and the miscellaneous stuck lovingly onto sugar paper – for reference when I went back to the slog of primary school. If the bus stop method and preparing songs for the harvest festival ever got too much, I could pull out my scrapbook and relive moments that were free from the burdens of numeracy.
I made scrapbooks for the same reason we write diaries or take photographs: fear of forgetting. Though perhaps over-cautious with my collages of Tesco receipts (to remember the magic of the meal deal when enduring a term of school dinners), anxieties about the reliability of human memory are common. It’s something social media taps into; a few years later, my scrapbook was replaced with my Instagram feed. They served the same purpose, storing memories while allowing space for creativity. But Instagram was easier and sleeker. Gone were the hours spent organising scraps – collages were now the product of thirty seconds on a nifty app. And they had an audience.
The idea is that you upload video snippets daily which are then mashed together into a personal ‘movie’
Feeling seen is one of the great appeals of social media. We don’t just post to immortalise a moment – if that’s all we wanted, we’d make do with our camera rolls – we want them witnessed, validated, even envied. This breeds performance. On Instagram, you’re unlikely to showcase the train tickets and the sea shells. It’s a place that celebrates the parties, the club nights, the exotic holidays – anything that gives the impression your life is busy and exciting.
This digital scrapbook cultivated an obsession with an online persona at the expense of living. I remember being 15 and meeting my friend for the sole purpose of taking pictures that, we hoped, would merit a post. It had reached the point where we no longer only took pictures of good times, we engineered ‘good times’ to take pictures.
When I found the 1 Second Everyday app, I thought it was the solution. The idea is that you upload video snippets daily which are then mashed together into a personal ‘movie’. Your life, quite literally, flashes before your eyes (one year totals at just over six minutes) as the date rapidly changes in the bottom left corner. The app is free to download, but has a subscription service (£48.99 a year) if you want unlimited backup, the option to input multiple clips per day, and access to music and editing features.
It offers all the ease of digital memory storing with none of the publicity and self-consciousness that comes with social media. I downloaded the app in 2018 with the intention of capturing my first year at uni, but amid the chaos of Freshers’ Week it was forgotten. On New Year’s Day I recommitted and, on opening the app, was treated to an entry from the day before I moved into halls: my sister lifting a box into the car boot. It was awkward and staged, the work of a true 1SE novice, but I found myself confronted with the fear I had felt three months earlier. It was a cue to look back on everything that had happened in that time: the people I had met, the societies I had joined, the unexplained disappearance of half the cutlery packaged so carefully inside that box. This capacity for retrospection is the best part of the app.
However, like Instagram, it ended up as something of a highlights reel. When days were filled with activity I had to be selective. The first minute of my 2020 ‘movie’ features housemates drinking vodka out of a trombone, the Editor-in-Chief of this very paper astride an inflatable blue banana, and on one occasion, a ball. By the end of March, I faced the opposite problem. The challenge was trying to find something every day that was worth documenting.
Lockdown meant collecting train tickets and sea shells again: an Indian takeaway, a cat turfing up in the garden, frolicking in a local field. When the country started to open back up in the summer, I tried to keep this up: when I went to Ikea for a shelf but somehow bought a trellis instead, the last time we took out the bins in our second year house, the tragic deflation of the blue banana.
My 2020 ‘movie’ reminds me, then, of that 2009 scrapbook – the insignificant became noteworthy once more. Housebound in Lockdown Three, the app forces me to find something to be grateful for everyday, however small. Today, it is the snow. Someday, I hope to look back on life in the pandemic and appreciate the present that little bit more.