Lessons from a Tech-Savvy 21st-Century Dad
My job title at 1 Second Everyday is Content Creator, but a more apt title for my role might be something like Guy Who Does the Fun Stuff. My first official duty at 1SE was way back when we used to do these things called Crowds. Crowds were compilations made from snippets of video that adhered to specific themes (Kids! Halloween! Star Wars!), that were submitted by 1SE users. I got to peruse the submitted snippets and try to organize them into some kind of sensible narrative, mash them into a single video, and compose music to go with them. It was a fun, if somewhat sporadic gig.
I’ve had a slew of one-off jobs, doing little extraneous 1SE-related stuff, like creating the app’s reminder tone (unless you hate it, in which case that was some other guy. We hate that guy). I also researched and wrote many of the factoids, quotes, and inspirational anecdotes that pop up when you get a 1SE reminder. Now I make compilations, in some ways similar to the old Crowd videos. We encourage folks who post their 1 Second Everyday videos on Instagram to tag their posts #1seme — this hashtag helps us find those people, whose videos we sometimes feature, and whose snippets can be included in monthly, yearly, or other themed multi-user mashups that I create for posting on the 1SE account.
Another duty I’ve been given is to create a series of articles about 1 Second Everyday. I decided to start with a series of user profiles. These profiles will focus on people who are representative of large groups within our user base who use 1SE for specific purposes. One of the largest groups of 1SE/Instagram posters is parents who use 1SE to document the lives of their children.
A Bit of Background
Meet Paul Gi. Paul (36) is a cheerful, open, and charismatic seller of women’s designer shoes. He likes tech toys like GoPros and Drones. He enjoys hiking, baseball (go Padres!), and craft beer. He lives in San Diego with his wife Jennifer and their two kids Jack and Ila. Paul discovered 1 Second Everyday in 2017 through a friend who works in film and who shared monthly video journals created using the 1SE app through his Instagram account. As the father of a young child, Paul decided 1SE would be a great tool for documenting the life of his son, Jack, and a great way to watch Jack grow up. In January of this year, the family added Ila to the roster. This July (2019) will mark Paul’s 2-year anniversary as a regular sharer of monthly compilations detailing Jack’s (and now Ila’s) growth, life, personality, and pursuits.
I encountered Paul through 1SE’s monthly themed Instagram mashups. His mix of adorable kid-moments, hiking adventures, and fantastic drone footage really caught my eye. When month after month I keep finding amazing snippets that come from the same account, it tends to stick in the head, and when we decided to put together user stories for this series, Paul was one of the first Instagram users that sprang to mind.
The Perfect Tool for Busy Parents
Paul records video every day, but hops on the 1SE app to organize his footage only a couple of times each month. As a busy parent, he enjoys the freedom to capture a moment of life now and not have to worry about archiving it until later. It’s “easy and quick” to put together the videos, even though he’s now making use of the feature allowing him to include two seconds for each day. He also notes that having around sixty moments per month lines up well with Instagram’s one-minute limit on video length.
PG: One thing I like about 1 Second Everyday is that I click through Instagram stories all the time, and if anything’s longer than a couple of seconds and it’s not immediately interesting to you, you just kind of click through it. But with 1 Second Everyday, the content changes so fast that you find yourself watching it and watching it, and then it’s over. It’s like the highlights — the Cliff’s Notes of life.
Jennifer notes that “since we live on our phones,” it’s much easier to use 1SE to document the kids’ lives than to try to assemble something as unwieldy and involved as a baby book. When used in conjunction with apps that are built to document specific aspects of infants’ and young children’s growth, the result is a form of digital childhood documentation that is more specific, fun, and intimate, while also being less imposing than the analog methods that previous generations struggled with. Since he started sharing their monthly compilations, Paul’s sister, and several of his friends and coworkers have started documenting their own children’s lives with 1SE.
Although Paul makes and shares videos and photos of other aspects of his life — his footage of some of the hikes he’s taken is gorgeous — he uses 1SE almost exclusively to document the lives of his kids. As Paul notes:
PG: We always look back and see what events or memories were going on, especially with the kids now, just to see them growing. So, when we started doing 1SE, it was cool, especially in the early stages, that you can see them changing even just by the end of the month.
Kids, 1SE, and Social Media
Jack is a funny kid. Even as a baby back in 2017, he seems to play to the camera at every chance. His contagious laugh, impish grin, and rambunctious antics make for entertaining viewing. At almost three years old, he’s now even more of a ham, and between riding the Roomba, making pizzas with Close Encounters of the Third Kind-level mountains of cheese, cheering on the Padres, and demonstrating an almost unbearably tender protectiveness and care for his baby sister, watching the last two years of Jack’s life are a deeply touching reminder of humanity at its most pure and precious. I was curious, though, about whether Jack himself watched and enjoyed these compilations, and whether he had any opinion on them.
JG: If he sees himself at all on video or photo, he just always says “what’s Jack doing?” or he’ll remember certain things, like, you know, firemen.
PG: Yeah, certain parts will jump out at him.
JG: It definitely does spark a memory, which we’re pretty amazed about, with him being so young. And now that we have a new baby, if he sees himself as a baby [in an older compilation], he goes “What’s Ila doing?” He doesn’t quite recognize himself at that age.
A lot of what I do at 1SE is peruse user-submitted videos to create content. After watching a user’s videos month after month, I start to feel almost like I know them. This is, of course, part of the point of 1SE, and one of the things that makes it such a powerful mode of documentation and communication. After looking through so many videos, I begin to recognize patterns, see who their friends are, their favorite spaces and subjects for videos. I can begin to see trends in their videos. But I’m just a person watching more-or-less casually (meaning that I’m not trying to identify people, places, or patterns in the videos), and in a world increasingly driven by algorithms and systems that are designed to observe and analyze our behaviors, I wonder sometimes how conscious people are of the content they send out into the world. So I asked Paul and Jennifer what they thought about publicly sharing footage of their children.
Paul notes that he has at times changed his Instagram settings to Private, but that because what he shares on Instagram tends to be silly, fun videos that don’t share a lot of private information, he doesn’t worry a lot about it.
PG: When we think about it, it is kind of strange, because it’s social media, especially if you don’t have a private page. But I guess I’m pretty open about things. The way we share stuff is mainly for our family and friends, and that’s why we mainly focus on [Jack] and where we’re at with him.
Jennifer mentions that the couple has discussed when they’ll stop publicly sharing videos of their kids, or even stop the daily recordings altogether. She wonders aloud whether there’s a specific point after which they’ll decide to end the project (when they start school? when they say “no, I don’t want a video today”?), and notes that some other parents have made the decision not to post photos or videos of their kids unless the child is old enough to decide whether it’s okay.
JG: It’s kind of a delicate balance, and we are always conscious of what we are posting. Like, if our friends’ kids are in the video, we always ask “is it ok if we post this on 1 Second Everyday?” And all of them have been fine with it.
PG: I think social media is more regular now, and our friends who are more private don’t really use social media. Everyone has their own opinion.
The 1SE Learning Curve
I ask them whether anything about the way they capture video has changed in the two years they’ve been recording Jack’s life. They suggest that there’s a learning curve to 1SE, and while it’s not steep, they seem to wish that they’d caught on to certain things sooner.
JG: We’re definitely conscious now about trying to get videos every day, and we even remind people who are watching our kids “hey, make sure you take a video!” And I’m always having to tell my mom “take it in landscape — don’t do portrait!”
PG: Yeah, that’s a huge tip.
JG: Yeah, she’ll send us one in portrait, and we’ll go, “no, wait, do it again in landscape. It looks so much better.”
Paul laughs and grimaces about the jaggy transitions between landscape and portrait snippets in their early videos, and Jennifer rues their early use of SnapChat filters (“I want to remember them in their natural state, not with like, doggy ears on, or with writing on the photo”). She also confesses to trying lately to convince Paul to use their gimbal or drone for every shot.
PG: It would be cool using a DSLR for an entire video, but it’s just so convenient to pull the phone out of your pocket and catch the moment as it happens.
Toys, Tips, and Reshaping Memory
I’m really glad that they brought up the drone because the drone footage that Paul has posted on Instagram is fantastic. I ask him about what inspired him to get one, and he confesses that it was almost an impulse buy.
PG: A drone, to me, is one of the most mind-blowing technology toys I own. It’s not even a toy, really. You can get some really professional shots out of it. One of my best videos, I was flying it over the San Diego County Fair. I got some great footage, but then the cops came running over, following it, and I was like “Oh, great,” but they just gave me a warning.
A note: because San Diego has so many military installations, hospitals, airports, and stadiums, San Diego is pretty restrictive when it comes to flying drones. Paul probably got really lucky, but what amazing footage:
Paul’s videos and photos tend to be well-framed, smooth, carefully structured, and beautiful, even if the shot in question is just Jack running around in the yard. When I first asked Paul if he was in the film/video industry professionally he laughed, but he has had some experience working in editing as a seasoned amateur. After he made a slideshow of his and Jennifer’s lives for their own wedding, Paul was asked by several friends to make slideshows for theirs as well. This experience led him to realize that he has a tendency to want to include everything when making videos like this.
PG: It’s hard to leave stuff out. I tend to include too much. But then it becomes a totally dragged-on video. I’ve been to weddings where they have this thirty-minute video, and after a while you just want to go to the bar. But the 1SE platform is cool, because it forces you to pick just one or two moments per day. Sure, you miss stuff, but it makes you focus on what you really want to have in your video.
Given that Paul obviously has a knack for getting good shots and has a lot of experience with capturing video of kids and with using the 1SE app, I asked him if he had any specific tips for others.
PG: I think it’s natural for people who are recording on phones to hold the phone upright. I guess that looks good if you’re viewing it on your phone and you’re not editing clips together. When my sister started using 1SE, her videos looked all choppy, going back and forth from horizontal to vertical. So we told her to just take them all landscape, and now I can see her improving.
When I ask him about his process for deciding what to capture and how to capture a moment to make every snippet entertaining and visually appealing without making the footage seem forced, Paul’s response would probably make a good introduction to How To Film Your Kid 101.
PG: Always try to just frame the shot so it’s interesting. That’s a pretty basic photography technique, but just be aware of your background and how the action looks against the background. Usually with Jack, we’re just trying to capture him when he’s doing something funny.
Which is a pretty regular occurrence. In backtracking through Paul’s IG feed, I discovered a real gem (see below — sound is key).
Obviously, I had to ask about what the impetus for this amazing little compilation was.
JG: He had terrible gas as a baby, and that is one of our most vivid memories of him as an infant.
PG: He was colicky.
JG: Like, terrible screaming and crying all the time, so now we can look back and laugh at it, but it is, I think, a good reminder of his early years, and just what that was like with his stomach issues. Because we could literally, just, make him fart. Just lift up his legs, and he would rip one.
Although I asked about the video more for my own amusement than out of some need to include the question in this article, their response to the question resonated with me in a way I hadn’t expected. They make it clear that the moments we decide to capture and preserve help to define (or perhaps redefine) our memories of things. Even though in many ways Jack’s colic was clearly an upsetting time for the whole family, by capturing amusing moments rather than the “terrible screaming and crying,” Paul and Jennifer are able to look back on that period and laugh.
I learned a lot from Paul and Jennifer, not only about how they utilize 1SE but also about how 1SE differs from other social media content. To me, the real, key difference between recording a daily video the way Paul does it and, say, snapping a selfie is that by its nature a selfie is a staged instant intended to be shared. Few of us (I hope) take selfies purely for our own records. We want others to see us, and we naturally want them to see us at our best, whether that image matches reality or not. But the recording of a second every day — even if those video snippets are of ourselves — grounds the focal point of the video in the larger — real — world. The moving image, especially in combination with accompanying sound, generates a more complete and frank reality than the crisp, sanitized, filtered, and generic images we so often consume (and produce) on social media.
Although Paul decided to capture the funny side of Jack’s bout of colic, the video acts as a reminder of both good times and bad for his parents. The video serves a dual purpose in a larger sense as well— it entertains the distant audience, while also acting as a (somewhat softened) artifact of what must have been a traumatic experience for first-time parents. This record of the period has an honesty — a genuine connection to real events — that even the most “candid” selfie lacks. It also (in only ten seconds) communicates a narrative that even the most thoroughly compiled photo album could never achieve, and represents the real triumph and unique power of the video journal.
I really didn’t know what to expect when I proposed this series of articles. I’ve never done this kind of thing before. I have no journalism experience, and before talking to Paul and Jennifer, I had never even conducted an interview. Thanks to them, I’m really excited to move forward with this series. Even though I’ve only spoken to them through a computer monitor, I feel like I got a pretty reasonable sense of the kind of people they are. I hope that I’ve been able to communicate that. Unlike Paul, I am not a technophile. In many ways, I am terrified of the effects of modern technology. But listening to them reflect on the ways that 1 Second Everyday has added an extra little special something to their lives gives me hope, and reminds me that there’s a lot of good to be had from responsibly-used technology. I’m grateful to be a part of that.
1 Second Everyday is a video journal app. For an in-depth description of what 1SE does and how it came to be, check out the story here. This is the first of what will presumably grow into a series of user stories, featuring folks who exemplify large cross-sections of 1SE-humans who not only use 1SE regularly, but also share their stories on Instagram.