The (Insensible) Spending Cycle and Influencer Culture

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I was scanning through the suggested videos in my YouTube feed today and it struck me just how many were videos with titles such as “BIGGEST Luxury Haul”, “$50,000 Haul”, “Five Items You Need Now”, etc. All of these titles struck me as a little saddening. At first, my emotional reaction was “oh… I want that” but then I realized just how empty I would feel if I did. Let me explain: I am an emotional shopper. When I feel accomplished, I want to celebrate with something to commemorate. But when I am sad, I also shop. When I am anxious, uncertain, nervous, excited, saddened, depressed, confused… whatever emotion I can feel, I want to buy something. The worst is when I am bored. Quarantine has been rough on this front for myself. I have bought WAY TOO MANY things over the last two months. Granted, I have returned a good portion, but still. The action of buying the items is really the issue.

Now, I feel I must say that I am much better than I was a couple years ago. I used to battle depression regularly and the instability of my relationship at the time contributed to my anxiety. My answer was to basically spend every extra cent I had and then some. I ended up in debt and was living far beyond my means. So, I have made some improvements on this. I contribute some of this to growing up and maturing but some of it has been the result of hard work as well. I hadn’t shopped this heavily in about two years and then quarantine came around and I was spending every bored minute on a website putting things in my cart. I am the kind of girl who enjoys hanging out at the mall on a Saturday, but I also have figured out how to really think through my purchases when I am in a store. This doesn’t seem to apply to my online shopping. So how do we control ourselves? And honestly, during quarantine should we be?

Influencer Culture:
This brings me back to the YouTube videos. Honestly, I am finding it sickening how much money some people spend on stuff and how many things some people have. I understand this whole influencer culture is intended to get people to continuously buy things but I feel like its actually detrimental to our emotional health and well-being. Just seeing those video thumbnails and titles I experienced a range of emotions. And as much as I do not want to feel a tinge of envy, I do. I have to imagine you likely do as well. I beat myself up for it because I feel like I should be better than that. But I honestly am not. I have to remind myself that most of what we are shown by influencers is just a small part of their life. It is what they want you to see. And for them, struggle and insecurity does not sell product.

Quarantine has brought about interesting discussions about influencer culture. Just how influential can an influencer be when we are all stuck indoors? Well, I am betting that interactions and view counts are probably up for them. I have watched more YouTube in the last month than I probably ever have (although I am not a YouTube fan, so that wasn’t much). And I really only started to watch heavily because my friend wants to start a channel. But many others watch religiously. And every video (or about 75%) is likely telling them they need something or showing them things they want that they don’t have. Then we feel longing, maybe jealously, maybe insecurity… We don’t feel good seeing these things. And it isn’t that we aren’t happy for that influencer’s success, but it shows us just how “unsuccessful” we are. And this is where my primary issue lies.

Measuring Success by Things
Maybe not everyone has this issue but it is an issue I struggle with a bit. To me, if you’re successful you have the ability to have things. This used to mean clothes and shoes when I was younger. But it has since morphed into home decor and luxury items. I think a good majority of us could admit that when we see these influencers sharing their 50 luxury handbags, we have a twinge of envy. We think if they have 50 they must be more successful than the person who has five. Because if the person who has five could buy 50, wouldn’t they?

I have learned that this is not necessarily the case. My boyfriend is a great example of this. He is secure and he does buy nice things, but he doesn’t go crazy (unless he hides it). He has a very, very good grasp on his finances and this is something I have learned from him. It isn’t that there has ever really been a conversation about it either but I like the way he thinks and I appreciate the way he is so I have tried to take lessons from him and be more mindful. Success isn’t measured by how many things you have. Its cool if you have 50 handbags, but what else do you have? I want more than an awesome handbag collection. I think we all want full lives with love, friendship, trials and tribulations. We want to achieve something. We want to know we worked hard and earned something. I want to measure my success by how happy I am.

So How Do We Escape the Cycle?
Well, I wish i could just stop shopping. And I suppose I could… but I don’t want to. However, we can take actions to be more in control of our shopping. For instance, in the last week I have unsubscribed for all marketing emails that tempt me. Yes, I may miss that random coupon here or there, but when I do receive that coupon I know I will look, I will shop and I will buy. I don’t want that. I want to be in control of my shopping and my spending. I want to decide to go to that retailer’s website because I chose to. This sounds like such a little thing, but I have honestly felt so much more in control of my time in the last week. I work for my money and that takes time. So spending my money should be enjoyable, not passive.

Another change I am making – less YouTube videos about stuff. I stopped watching any type of haul or unboxing. They don’t bring me joy, I don’t enjoy them, they are just passive entertainment. But I can take the time spent watching those and watch something more interesting, something that will teach me something, or something that will better myself. In the last couple days, I have started watching financial videos. Again, I am working on feeling more in control of my finances and how I utilize that money. I want it to work for me after I have worked for it. I suppose you could say I want a mutually beneficial relationship with it.

I would love to hear your comments! Let me know if you feel the same way and how you’re handing the spending cycles our culture throws us into. 🙂

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