Let me get this out of the way: I’m not completely against buying stuff. I believe that like all areas of our lives -food, sex, sleep, etc.- these things that make us feel good can be healthy in moderation. Money is obviously no exception to this; it’s something we need to survive in our modern society, but it can also be easily taken advantage of. I’ve noticed a growing trend on YouTube in the last couple of years- an increased amount of haul videos, shopping overloads, giant PR packages, “I Spent X Amount of Dollars on Wish.com”, “I Tested $1,000 Worth of Makeup”, the list goes on and on. These videos do have good intentions, and I’m aware that they’re often for entertainment purposes, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can carry damaging undertones. We, as humans, already have an unquenchable urge to always want more than we have. It’s human nature, and I’m guilty of it myself- hence why I think the culture of consumerism can be dangerous in feeding these constant wants and needs. Yes, they are entertaining, but on a deeper level, are they really messages that we should be subjecting ourselves to and admiring?
I don’t think all product placement and advertisement is a negative thing, I more so have a problem with how content creators are going about doing it. If a YouTuber wants to recommend a product or a brand that they genuinely enjoy using and consider the investment to be worth it, than yeah, I’ll listen. Jenna Marbles is actually particularly good at this- she rarely flaunts brands and products excessively, but when she does recommend something to us, it’s something that we can find useful and practical. I think the line is crossed when YouTubers are buying just to buy, and flaunting just to flaunt.
Listen, Mia Maples and NikkieTutorials, you can do whatever you want with your money. And I agree that these types of videos can be entertaining and a lot of fun to watch, but everything can have a darker, deeper meaning to it. “It starts creating feedback loop and people have to keep outdoing themselves and do something more shocking, more outrageous, in order to stay relevant,” revealed another YouTube-watching friend of mine.
The problem is, if you’re going to market yourself as just an everyday, relatable teen, you also have to deal with the flip side that viewers are going to attempt to follow in your footsteps. How can you justify dropping $400 in the blink of an eye on a pile of clothes or makeup, and putting it online, when the majority of your audience can’t even afford a pizza? What is the message you are trying to get across? And how do you think you’re coming across to young people?
I’ve noticed that a lot of content creators seem to lack “identity”, in a sense that they don’t come across as truly happy with themselves to their audiences. Instead, they seemingly promote their self worth with brands, products, sponsorships, and materialistic consumerism. I’m not saying that all YouTubers should analyze themselves on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for us, but really, when the only content you can put out about yourself is what you’re buying, it definitely carries a gloomy message: “I am over-reliant on my possessions.”
Adolescent years are already hard enough on teenagers. When you take raging hormones, self-esteem issues, and then add in constant bombardment of materialism, the already fragile front of youth continues to crumble. We don’t need another video of a content creator exulting their purchases, but maybe, what we do need, is realness and empathy. We need role models who share their pain and their adversities, not just their pleasures and perks. Most of the time, all this really leads to is jealousy, comparison, and depression. What we really need is more love, more sharing, and more emotions- not just tangibility. We need more love.
Further reading: https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/the-high-risks-of-consumerism
Coming up next: Crystal Diary: The Unconditional Love of Emerald