Tech Now + Beyond

Buzzfeed is convincing you to spend your hard-earned money on crap – so what do we do?

I have a bad relationship with money.

When I was younger and living with my parents, money just never crossed my mind. Of course, I watched them struggle with finances until my father’s business took off in the mid-2000s, but I always knew that anything money-related was my parents’ department.

Now that I’m an adult, I have to balance between paying my bills and living a fulfilling life. It’s difficult because many of us are learning how to manage our money through trial and error. Undoubtedly, the way we spend it forms a huge part of our identities. We’re expected to pay for the gym, buy organic food, get an Ivy League education, and keep up with the latest fashion trends- all while trudging through the ongoing battle of millennial unemployment.

So wherever we can, we have to avoid being enabled in our bad spending habits.

That’s where Buzzfeed comes along.

As I’ve stated before, the company’s brand is built on fast, easily-consumable media. It takes the simple things we can’t live without, such as food and clothing, and sensationalizes it to an extreme.

The implicitness of it all is what’s scary.

Take a video like $22 vs. $200 Workout Leggings. We’re presented with three different brands, boasting three different price points; cheap, mid-range, and expensive. Each brand is worn by three different people with three different body types and preferences. They each give their opinion, making sure to throw in a bit of relatable Beyoncé quips, and then give a score out of five for style and workout factor.

It all seems innocent enough at face value, but how our minds react to it, is what’s important.

When I watch a video like this, my mind is drawn to what my opinion of the leggings are. It’s natural that we would want to voice our own opinion about something when surrounded by people who are sharing theirs.

But the fact is I can’t wear those leggings. I can’t reach through the screen and pull out a pair to try on for myself.

Immediately, the first thing I want to do is to go out and buy them; one of them at least, maybe even all.

That innate curiosity I’m feeling isn’t just relegated to leggings either. Videos like Women Try Cheap Vs. Expensive Lipstick and even Macdonald’s: 1995 Vs. Now all give you this feeling of FOMO or nostalgia. Most of the time, we’re usually watching YouTube videos when we’re bored and want to fill our time. Once we’re fueled by desire, what better way to satiate your boredom than with some online shopping?

There are countless videos like this on Buzzfeed’s many YouTube channels. In fact, the whole Worth It series, split into seasons, is based on the theme of cheap vs. expensive. And it’s not just in their YouTube videos. Buzzfeed regularly posts Can You Get Through This Post Without Spending $50? articles on their website. In fact, just a quick Google search shows pretty interesting results:

Yeah, I’m not even kidding.

I’m not trying to convince you that Buzzfeed is an evil media company trying to brainwash us into buying things. What I am saying, though, is that there are obvious ramifications to being overexposed to this kind of money-centric media.  Buzzfeed has mastered this art, of being an all-too-relatable popular mainstream media company, and we’re most likely to encounter a Buzzfeed video or article a couple of times when we’re on our social feeds.

The truth is, we have to be more aware of the kinds of narratives surrounding money that we are exposed to. Yes, it can be fun to watch people react to different products and to be able to see the different options available to us in the market. But realizing that these companies are built on making you feel left out from the mainstream narrative is critical.

When we feel left out, we’ll do almost anything for that sweet taste of inclusion.

Even if it means buying $200 leggings.

Although there are a few Buzzfeed videos I do enjoy, I will never not be critical of the kind of work they put out into the world. To be accepting of anything and everything that flies onto my screen is not only falling directly into the trap of western value systems, but bad for my mental health. Instead, I want to work on curating the kind of media I am exposed to, and filling my world with stories such as this and this that can influence me to do good by myself.

Trendiness is not worth the debt.

By Ariana Munsamy

Ariana is a graduate from the University of Cape Town with majors in Gender Studies and Anthropology. She is a plant-lady artist, writer and poet, who has been published in Prufrock & Type/Cast Literary Journal. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, retweeting and playing Skyrim.