Saturday, 10 June 2017

11. Haul Videos

Of all the nightmares modern life has to offer, the haul YouTube video surely has a VIP seat in hell.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Type “haul” into YouTube and you will enter a world you’ll wish you never knew existed.

Just in a case you need a summary, a haul is when a person goes shopping for clothes, beauty products or toiletries and then films herself either trying the products on or holding them up, all the while maintaining a banal patter of chirpy chatter. Sometimes they’re specific (see “Primark haul” or “Lush haul”), while others are more general (see “Huge haul” or “Winter haul”).

It’s a phenomenon that’s for sure. Millions of young women dedicate their time to sharing their shopping antics with others. Some of the pretty ones even make money out of it – paid for shopping!

With hauls, bigger is better. The very use of the word “haul” makes me think of industrial diggers. I'm imagining an army of heavily made-up thirteen-year-olds raiding Primark with a stolen JCB. These videos project the message that owning stuff makes you happy, clothes make you happy, money makes you happy. If you’re too poor to haul – unlucky love.

OK, most of the hauls are from cheap shops, but even shopping at Primark adds up if you treat it like an all-you-can-eat buffet. In one video I watched (strictly for research purposes), the vlogger bought three of the same item in slightly different patterns. The item was a throw. No one needs three poor-quality throws. Fashion-wise the message seems to be -  you can get away with cheap shit, as long as you have ten tons of it.

As someone who is addicted to buying clothes I can confirm that they do not for happiness make. Every time I buy something I think, “This is it! This is the item that will make my life complete”.

The first time I wear it I feel transformed. The second time, I catch site of myself in a mirror and realise it’s hideous, I’m hideous, I have made a terrible mistake. I spend the evening picking the hairs off the offending garment in the hope I can still return it.

You have to wonder why these videos are so popular. On the face of it they sound hilariously dull. If a friend tried to talk me through the contents of her wardrobe or, even worse, her bath bomb collection, I’d scream, “Put it away love, or at least fetch me a bottle of wine!”.

But the terrifying thing is, there’s something addictive about haul videos.  You can waste an evening on it; you can waste a life on it. They suck you in like a black hole. Perhaps it’s the calming way the girls produce garment after garment from a hidden bag, like a fashion-conscious Mary Poppins, or maybe it's the rhythm of their voices as they point to a scalloped collar or a beaded headband that they are obsessed with (they are obsessed with a lot). Beneath a well-known vlogger’s haul video one girl commented, “My flat-mate was out tonight, so glad I could have dinner with you instead!”

I guess that’s what it’s all about - having a chum, someone to turn to in the dark of the evening, when life is otherwise depressing. (Just don’t think too much about the fact that the person on the screen has not got a sweet clue who you are, otherwise you really will be depressed.)

It’s not a huge surprise that these videos are overwhelmingly the domain of young women, but it is disturbing. These vloggers do and say nothing inspiring - they shop and they spend. Oh, they’re positive and bubbly sure, why wouldn’t they be? They’re young, privileged and beautiful. But then that’s not how it works, is it. Young, privileged girls are so often miserable and image-obsessed. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think haul videos are helping. A lot of the top vloggers have opened up about their anxiety problems – in ten years’ time will we all be asking, “Which came first, the haul or the anxiety?”.

Probably not, but we should be.

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