A haul, in the social media age and blogosphere, is a post or video talking through a number of items that one has purchased (usually clothing or makeup). If you were to type the word ‘haul’ into your Youtube search bar you would find a plethora of videos titled ‘Huge Spring Haul’ or ‘Massive Clothing Haul’ with a thumbnail of a girl holding four of five shopping bags – I know, I just did it.
This phenomenon is nothing new to the social influencer world. In fact, the trend has existed for almost as long as many of these social platforms; however, as digital influencers become more and more popular and their audience grows, the concern surrounding their content also gains steam.
Your favourite bloggers and YouTubers probably post some kind of haul content (clothing, makeup or otherwise) on their platform at least twice a month and, like me, you probably watch intently and enjoy every minute of it.
But is this seemingly innocent content actually doing more harm than we realise?
The actual concept itself may sound strange to someone who has never heard of it before; an influencer sitting in front of a camera and talking about all the new clothes they have bought with cutaways of them trying the pieces on and telling us why they love or dislike it.
However, this isn’t necessarily a vanity project nor is it supposed to be an opportunity to boast and show off. Instead, it’s viewed as a useful way of keeping people who are interested in fashion, makeup or homeware up to date with new releases or trends and can inspire them to try new outfits and brands, step out of their comfort zone and find their own personal style.
The setup of these videos is often done in such a way that it feels as though you are sitting down with a close friend as they go through their shopping bags and look for a thumbs up or sign of approval from you on their new finds. It’s fun, friendly, entertaining and no different than what a lot of us do within our social groups.
There is also a review element to some of these hauls (usually the ones that are not sponsored or collaborative in any way) whereby the influencer gives their honest opinion on whether a particular item or brand is worth the time or money that you may be considering spending on it. It can expose brands of poor quality or items that look great on the site but do not live up to the hype in person. Real life, visual testimonials like this are the way forward for many brands and can be far more informative and trustworthy than a lot of the reviews we find written on the brand websites.
There is, however, a dangerous downside to it all.
The average haul related Youtube video can feature anywhere between 12 – 20 different items totaling anything from £200 to £2000 – and that’s if we ignore the ‘luxury hauls’ which can often go into five digit figures.
With the sheer number of fashion retailers and makeup brands that exist in today’s marketing, coupled with the volume of haul content being released by each fashion and beauty guru on a monthly basis, audiences are being exposed to thousands of pounds worth of desirable products that can quickly burn a hole in their pocket.
Most of the women, and men, creating this content run their own businesses (heck, empires) and make a substantial amount of money so these splurges are probably just a slight dent in their bank account. However, for the viewers, who already live in a society where there is an increasing pressure to keep up with the luxury and fabulous lifestyles of the rich and famous, this can be a swift path to debt.
Are these Youtubers (not purposefully, I might add) promoting excessive consumerism to their young and impressionable audiences?
This content is undoubtedly fuelled by materialism and creates the perception that having all of these lovely, costly possessions equates to this unattainable lifestyle that, seemingly, makes their favourite influencer happy. Young fans are watching their modern-day idols talk about all these amazing shoes and lipsticks and skincare products that they buy every month, that cost a lot of money, and is making them look great and create these perfect Instagram pictures.
Although we are all well aware by this point that we are only being shown the highlight reel of people’s lives and they have worked hard to afford all of these luxuries and they have bad days and struggles like the rest of us etc. etc., we still can’t help but feel envious or pressured or FOMO which leads us to then go out and buy the jeans, heels and coat that Zoe Sugg just raved about on her channel even though we don’t need them nor can we really afford it all.
Tim Kasser, a psychology professor, has noted that these materialist values that we are putting on a pedestal and promoting on these social platforms have a negative effect on our wellbeing and mean that people are prone to act less ecologically and other values, such as pro-social values like empathy, can be demoted whilst we prioritise detrimental ideology like consumerism.
This is completely understandable and we are seeing these effects take hold today.
The ongoing cycle of watching influential people talk about and try the great new products they have purchased, leading us to then decide that we must have it all too but finding ourselves struggling to afford to keep up with this expensive lifestyle leading to anxiety and depression. Not to mention we forget the importance of spending time with loved ones, home comforts etc. and we get swept up in refreshing the New In section on ASOS every day and signing up to every e-commerce mailing list in existence to ensure we don’t miss out on any sales.
I’m certainly not trying to say that we need to put an end to all haul content on Youtube or within the blogging community because I believe that there is space for all creative content and there are definite pros to hauls when they are done well.
I also believe that there are many people, myself included, who don’t consume too much of this content and won’t let it influence their own spending habits all that much.
Nonetheless, there are definite dangers that we need to be more aware of and social media influencers need to take more responsibility for by not posting a haul video every other Monday for the next year.
There is just far too many haul-style videos on the internet right now and it comes across as unoriginal and repetitive so, if not for the fact that it can be harmful for young and impressionable viewers then just because it’s being done by everyone and their mum, I am waiting for that one Youtuber to break the mould and start pushing more varied content and cut down on these hauls.
Why not start making some content about how to budget, save and spend wisely?