Memento Mori, Unus Annus. Remember death, one year. These words are the entire embodiment of Unus Annus (meaning “One Year” in Latin) and on 15th November 2019 these words resonated every single day until Friday 13th November 2020 when they went silent from the Internet forever, and died.
Dramatic beginnings aside for a second, Unus Annus was a YouTube channel created by Mark Fischbach of Markiplier, Ethan Nestor of CrankGameplays and their creative producer Amy Nelson. They created the idea of Unus Annus and moulded it into a self-destructing YouTube channel in which it would be deleted within one year of its birth with the mission to bring daily uploads to viewers and teach them that not a single second can ever be taken for granted in this life.
The sleek, serious and morbid tone of what Unus Annus stood for often clashed (rather hilariously) with the channel’s content. I, personally, remember the first time I heard about the channel. I was subscribed to Mark’s channel and watched him casually, mainly watching his horror lets plays. I received a notification that he had uploaded a video with the simple but impactful title ‘This Will End in One Year’. Obviously I was intrigued and wondered what the whole suit, spiral and rather serious tone was about and so I watched it. Intrigued and slightly confused, I followed on from that to the ‘Unus Annus’ video on their official channel and decided to casually click the subscribe button and then I kind of forgot about it. Exactly a day later, I was greeted by the notification that “Cooking With Sex Toys” had been uploaded to Unus Annus. That was the biggest curveball that could have been thrown at viewers after such a serious and philosophical concept had been spoken in the previous video. I remembering staring at the notification wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into before looking around me to see none of my family were nearby and clicking on it. Upon reflection, I’m so thankful I gave the video a chance, not only was it absolutely hilarious in itself but helped to set the tone of what was to come within the year of Unus Annus.
This tonal shift is what helped to make Unus Annus so special to a lot of people, myself included if you couldn’t tell already. The highbrow concept matched with the often bottom of the barrel content made for an extremely interesting watch and everyday I would go back for more waiting for the next bizarre video to hit my subscription feed. The timer ticking down the seconds at the beginning of every video was a small but impactful reminder that death comes for us all. This formula is something which YouTube and I think the interest in general has not seen before. Whilst many YouTube channels, blogs, websites and social media will go silent never to be seen again, this silence is never usually a planned out choice. Life may get in the way or interests may fade leaving behind whatever piece of internet a person may have created to float aimlessly in digital space. Unus Annus seemed to embody the complete opposite of that. The whole purpose of the channel surrounds the idea of not being on the internet forever and its time limit set it apart from everything else. They stated from the very beginning that the channel would end in one year. It WOULD end. It WOULD get deleted. NO ONE could stop that. That was the reality we all had to face. And it’s funny that people, myself included for a while, didn’t really process that fact.
At the beginning of the channel, many of the days slipped by and time felt like it wasn’t passing too quickly. The timer didn’t seem overly significant to begin with and then day 100 came and it felt like a slap in the face. It might sound strange and a little overdramatic but I started a sort of grieving process once the channel hit that milestone. I was denying the timer for 250 days and then I got angry about it. I was genuinely pissed off that it would be ending, that I had been taking the seconds for granted, that something that gave me happiness and a small but important routine in my life during the mess that was 2020 would be taken away from me like it was nothing. For me, I think this weird grieving process was important and the fact that I had it reasonably early on meant that by the time it came for the channel to die, while I was overwhelmed with emotion and really devastated, I also accepted it and was at peace with it actually happening. But, I know if this was any other normal YouTube channel, with no expiration date, I would have never in a million years reacted like this. I’ve seen creators I enjoy leave YouTube on their own terms before but I never reacted so strongly.
The knowledge of something having a certain lifespan before it quite literally dies and disappears from us forever makes said thing much more important. There were a lot of people who didn’t get it and found it to be pointless or that it was unfair that only a select amount of people got to experience it. To those people, I say that is literally how life itself works. Life itself could be argued to be rather pointless but we give it meaning. The unfairness of not knowing someone when they are alive is part of life and I’d like to bet a lot of people wish they could have known a certain person when they were alive. But, they can only meet that person through fragments like photos, videos, stories, etc. In Unus Annus’ case; memes, fanart, edits, out of context photos, merch and the people who actually experienced it. I feel their final goodbye which consisted of a 12-hour livestream (which yes, I did pull an all nighter to watch) also encapsulated this idea perfectly since it was a livestream in which if you don’t see something, it is gone for good and you cannot go back and see it again no matter how much you’d like to.
This is just the way I interpreted Unus Annus and the ideology they stood for and I think that was what made it special for me. Unus Annus made me care. They gave me lots of amazing memories to look back on. They made me laugh on days where I didn’t think I could even muster up a smile. They made me feel more accepting of death and the concept of Memento Mori. They made me want to live my life to the fullest and have no regrets. They made my 2020 a bit more bearable and for that, I thank them.
Thanks for reading! Memento Mori, Unus Annus.