Erin Shi/Daily

Over winter break I spent about 2,141 minutes on Instagram, scrolling through the first semester recap posts of my freshmen peers. My screen lit up with pictures of big groups of friends with shiny smiles, posing with one arm in the air and the other around some other, equally smiley companion. The people in these posts seemed so carefree. There were no visible traces of loneliness or the anxiety that had permeated so many of my experiences last semester.

With every refresh of the app, my feed was flooded with pictures of picnics in the Law Quadrangle and chaotic tailgates, with captions proclaiming that people had found their home and were with their people. While I consider myself to be very aware of how fake social media can be, I still felt awful looking through these posts and seeing the perfect college experience that everyone seemed to be having except me. 

Many of these posts were made using the 1 Second Everyday app. Promising to “create a meaningful movie of your life,” the application allows users to take one-second-long videos for each day of the year, which are then compiled into a single video. The app boasts 4.8 stars, and one reviewer even shared that seeing her son’s happiness each day in the videos helped her cope with postpartum depression. The app encourages people to focus on the small, special moments that happen each day: the moment a swirl of cream hits a cup of coffee, the fast-moving view from the window of a bus or the last second of brightness of the day before turning off the lights and going to sleep.   

But ultimately, the app is not immune to the problems found on other social media platforms, as it feeds into the noxious culture of constant comparison. 

Something I admire about the app, however, is how it encourages people to romanticize their lives. A phenomenon that has taken digital circles by storm, I have been trying to incorporate this way of thinking into my life in the hopes that it will make me happier by encouraging me to slow down and focus on the people I spend time with and the smaller details of each day. 

Last week, walking back from a late night study session, I paid closer attention to my surroundings. I tuned into the authoritative sound of my Doc Martens tapping against the cold stone pavement of the Law Quad and watched the soft snow fall under the street lights as I made my way back to my dorm. I welcomed the sharp January cold like an old and consistent friend, one that has come around every winter for the last eight years that I’ve lived here. 

Focusing on the details of my winter evening gave me an unexpected feeling of detachment. It’s human nature, and evolutionarily necessary, to always be focusing on our problems, on what work we need to get done and how we need to improve. But romanticizing my life gave me some distance from that feeling — I felt as though I was looking back on my own life. An observer in my own first-person reality. 

It was at this moment that I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. I wanted to hold on tightly to that feeling, since it’s not one that comes around often during freshman year. 

Another benefit to the app may be simply remembering what has happened in a day.

This is without a doubt the busiest my life has ever been, as I try to fit meals with friends in between extracurriculars, office hours and time that I for some reason spend on Instagram reels every day. 

When people ask me how my day was, or what I did, I have a hard time telling them. I can’t seem to remember everything that blew by that day. My polite but shallow response often ends up being a lazy amalgamation of the basics that ends with sharing my class schedule. But the parts of my day that I enjoy most are all the in-between times: the little conversations with people in the hall on my way to brushing my teeth or sitting on a friend’s carpet at night and hearing about the ups and downs of their love life. 

These are the times when I feel loved, when I don’t feel lonely and when I feel like I am, shockingly, a functioning college student (and even, possibly, an adult!). But these moments pass by and I worry that’s all they do — that when I leave college, the memories I share will be in the form of a list of classes rather than an outpouring of good times with friends, feelings of belonging and collections of small adventures. 

For this, maybe the 1 Second Everyday app offers a solution: an opportunity to immerse myself in my own life and lean into what makes it lovely and gratifying. Though I have only been using the app for a short period of time, I truly enjoy watching the small video I have already. And being on the lookout for a moment that I should record heightens my awareness of the special moments I get to see and experience. As I look through the days and see some clips busy with friends and extracurriculars and others of me sitting alone in my room studying, I am given a simple reminder that those contrasting moments are the nature of life, and that any loneliness I am experiencing will pass, just like every clip that flashes away in an instant.

I hope that my usage of the app can be a sort of stepping stone — a tool I can use for this semester, or perhaps this year, until this way of looking at life is a core part of my mindset. 

Focusing on the small, seemingly ordinary parts of my own life could also provide a healthy distraction from the chaos of the rest of the world. The danger of climate change, for example, is a worry that is constantly simmering in the back of my mind and creeps to the forefront at times when it seems that I cannot be doing anything to fix it, like on my walk to classes or before bed. In this way, some detachment might be healthy. It should not come as a surprise to me that things may be easier when I spend more time thinking about the coziness of my socks or the re-opening of the East Quad Residence Hall hot chocolate machine than about the threat of microplastics. Put differently, as I eloquently wrote in my notes for this piece, “when the big things cause the big sad, the little things can be focused on.” 

However, it is one thing to record these videos to add some permanence to the fleeting moments of life or to indulge in healthy escapist entertainment amid worldly deterioration. It is an entirely different thing to use the app to piece together an unattainable version of life to share on the Internet. The latter has more than its fair share of problems, as the Internet continues to be plagued with unattainable, hyper-filtered depictions of people’s everyday lives. As someone who is, unfortunately, a frequent user of Instagram reels, my feed has been filled with the newest iteration of idealistic social media nonsense: the “that girl” aesthetic. 

The stereotypical “that girl” video will involve waking up early in the morning, opening up a window to a beautiful view, journaling, meditating, going to the gym and then drinking a smoothie (smoothie bowls work, too). At the end of these videos, I often wonder how anyone with a full-time job could possibly keep up this routine. 

This trend perpetuates a capitalistic version of self-care that requires a gym membership and glass straws, in which wellness and self-improvement are a guise for wealth. A deeper issue is revealed with a quick search of “that girl” on YouTube. The results are videos of mostly thin, toned white women. As a whole, the trend perpetuates racist beauty standards while capitalizing on people’s desire to have a better life. In doing so, it portrays a singular picture of health and happiness that is unattainable for all but the fraction of the population that fits those characteristics.

Clearly, this method of romanticizing life is toxic and exclusionary. So where is the line between social media that makes us feel happy with our lives, and trends that seem to meet the exact opposite goal? 

My faith in 1 Second Everyday as a positive form of social media was deflated by the introduction of the app’s “Crowds” function. This new feature offers users a “social experience” where they can follow their friends and post videos that followers can view, like and comment on for 72 hours. Undeniably, this feature will provide just another platform for people to compare themselves to their followers. 

While I don’t think that there is a singular, ideal way to find a balance from the app, I believe that intentions are important. Different outcomes result when we romanticize our lives for our own purposes, rather than to share with others or amass followers. The same is true for the way we consume other people’s social media posts. We can be happy for the people we follow while realizing that context is key, and social media provides little to none. 

The issue with the app is that one second does not come close to encompassing the full story of someone’s life and experiences, or even the hour in which the second was captured. It might be worthwhile to capture the highs in our own lives to lessen the impact of the lows we experience. But if we’re never witnessing anyone’s lows, viewing the romanticized version of their lives is anything but fulfilling. 

For college students like me who are frequent users of social media and also face the pressure of planning our futures, housing and majors, I find it unlikely that the desire to create a picture-perfect life is something that will ever go away. But being aware of how these factors might skew the way we use and consume media can give us some necessary distance from trends that blur the line between fantasy and reality. 

Rather than crafting an Instagram-worthy version of happiness or success, we can do our best to lean into the small moments that we hope to look back on happily. We cannot craft the perfect narrative, but rather, we can craft one that is filled with in-between moments that help make each second we spend on this campus more fulfilling.

 Statement Correspondent Caitlin Lynch can be reached at