Unus Annus: Life Lessons to Take From the First Self-Destructing YouTube Channel

Yep, you read that title right - Unus Annus (Latin for “one year”) is - was - a self-destructing YouTube channel. Let me explain. On November 15, 2019, the channel made its debut. Its creators, YouTubers Ethan Nestor (CrankGameplays) and Mark Fishbach (Markiplier), explained in their first video that the point of the channel was to show how everything comes to an end. They told viewers that they were giving themselves one year to upload a video onto the channel every single day and then would be deleting the channel after its time was up. Over the course of that year, Unus Annus gained more than 4 million subscribers, over 1.5 million of who showed up for their final 12-hour-long live-stream, from 12 PM on November 13, 2020, to 12 AM on November 14, 2020, where they reflected upon and deleted the channel for good. Though at first glance the concept may not make much sense - why delete a channel after putting 365 days of hard work into it? - the pair spent a fair amount of the live-stream reiterating the true meaning behind Unus Annus and posted individual videos discussing their final thoughts on the channel in the following days. Whether you were along for the ride for the full year, or this is your first time hearing about Unus Annus, here are some important lessons we all need to take from the channel and carry with us for the rest of our lives.

Unsplash Thomas William In his final recap video about Unus Annus, creator Ethan Nestor acknowledges the fact that lots of people just didn’t get it, but he doesn’t mind because “it was something that meant something to those people [who did], and that’s what was special about Unus Annus.” The central concept of this channel was to show, in a very real way, that everything has a lifespan. Though in this case, we’re just talking about a YouTube channel, that notion can be applied to a variety of things, a glaring one being people. We all have a limited amount of time on this planet, and, as Nestor tells his viewers, “we have to make the most out of every single second because we will never get a single second back.” He notes that “on a video to video basis [the channel] wasn’t this deep, but the overarching theme of the channel, you know, to make the most out of your life because it’s going to end, and you have to do everything you can with the time that you have. And we did.”

I know this concept may seem kind of morbid for YouTube, a platform largely seen as being meant solely for fun and entertainment. However, believe it or not, this channel ignited something in millions of people, shown through the extremely high amount of subscribers it gained in just one year, as well as the over 1.5 million viewers who joined the final live-stream to pay one last tribute to the channel before its permanent erasure. Towards the end of his video, Nestor notes that “the best thing about it was when we hit delete [...] I didn’t have any regret,” which is something I think we all want to feel when our own timers run out. Unus Annus serves as a post-mortem reminder to make the most out of our lives so that we can look back on them the same way Nestor looked back on this channel. 

Mark Fishbach, co-creator of the channel, also had a few words to say about the end of Unus Annus. Like Nestor, he knew that not everyone would get it. His take on the concept comes from his firm belief that “the entirety of what something is cannot be truly appreciated until it ends.” To him, the point of the channel was the loss, the complex emotions (especially during the final live-stream), and the general difficulty in letting the channel go. He says that “[he] wanted to make something that was so important that people would hate to let it go,” which is exactly what he and the Unus Annus team did. The team’s philosophy this past year was to put an incredible amount of effort into the channel so that it would be that much harder to say goodbye. Each day they worked to produce content filled with so many different experiences that, in a way, it almost amounted to them living out a full life in just a year. From attempting an escape room to learning Chinese archery, eating fire to walking on glass, and generally trying lots of things that you probably shouldn’t try at home, they found a way to fit a lifetime’s worth of adventures into one year. As Fischbach says, “it was a year’s worth of work to build up to one moment: that one second before we hit the delete button. That last second… that was everything.” As sad as it was to see the channel go, the Unus Annus team members felt extremely bittersweet - yes, they were saying goodbye to a year’s worth of hard work and cherished memories. However, they said goodbye with the satisfaction of knowing that they made every second count. “I hope I can approach my own death with the same sense of contentment and satisfaction that I walked into that last stream yesterday,” Fishbach says, “cause I walked into that stream and I walked out of it feeling the same way: satisfied. Content. And happy with what we made Unus Annus to be.” I think this content feeling is something that most, if not all of us, wish to have at the end. The thought of this channel reminds us to not waste a second more just wishing for something but to go out and get it, whatever it may be. 

So, in the words of Unus Annus, “what would you do if you knew how much time you had left?” Whatever you thought of, go do it. I mean it. Why wait? The harsh truth is that none of us know when our timers are going to run out. When that time comes, you don’t want to look back with regrets and “what if's,” do you? Take this as a sign to start living your life to the fullest. Let the channel’s theme inspire you every single day of your life to do the very best, and the very most, that you can. You’re destined for greatness if you so choose to go after it, so what are you waiting for? Go, live your life! Follow your hopes and dreams, pursue your passions, and live a life you’ll be able to look back on down the road with nothing but feelings of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Memento Mori.

Unus Annus.