TEXT OF INTERVIEW
TESS VIGELAND: We are in a TMI culture these days. Too much information. Every detail of your life, right there on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube. I, for one, don't get it. Here's the latest example, and when one of our producers told us about this, I laughed and said something like "Yeah, right." It's a YouTube trend called "hauls." H-A-U-L-S. Video diaries about the junk people buy.
Girl on a YouTube video: Hey guys. OK, I just got home from a long day of shopping at the mall, and I just wanted to show you what I got at the mall today...
A young woman sits in her room and tells you all about every single thing she bought today and why.
Girl: I got three belts, because I really needed some belts. Um, this one is $5.80, and it's just a simple gold belt right here, and it has a little rhinestone right here. And it's just a thin gold belt.
Here's the kicker. Some of these haul videos have hundreds of thousands viewers, which prompts us to ask:
Comedian: Let me start with question number one: What the hell were you thinking?
Now, who hasn't come home one day and showed off stuff they bought to friends and family, right? But on the Internet, for the world to see? And we watch this? Rob Walker writes about consumer culture for the New York Times magazine. So we asked him to view some hauls for us. He says they fit right in with the social media trend, where everything you do is worth documenting.
Rob Walker: I think that the other element of it, which is really related is kind of "I'm a brand" culture, you know, the brand of me. Because a lot of these people sort of present themselves as some sort of grassroots Tyra Banks or something, and they have thousands of subscribers, who apparently are interested in. And then you read the comments saying, "Oh yeah, I love MAC cosmetics," so it really is being a little mini version of the kind of Style TV that you might see in the mainstream media.
He says haulers probably dream of being the next blogger-Tweeter-YouTuber to make the big time with a book deal or a TV show. And why not? Plenty of celebrities are famous only for their shopping habits.
YouTube video by Beautycakez: Hey guys, this is Sylvia from Beautycakez. So I don't usually do haul videos, but I've been getting a lot of requests to do them. So, we'll start off with this: these are the kinds of nail polishes that you can draw with...
Sheena Iyengar: Well, I believe that's Beautycakez, right? She's an Asian girl from Toronto, Canada.
Vigeland: Yes, it's BeautyCakez and that is Sheena Iyengar. She's a professor at Columbia Business School and just wrote a book called "The Art of Choosing." We asked her to watch some hauls too, and apparently, Beautycakez made an impression.
Iyengar: She has a whole bunch of things that she buys that's "cool" or "hot," so she's got that yellow t-shirt and that French Connect maroon sweater with pink writing on it.
So maybe it's understandable why people make hauls, but really, what about the folks watching them? What are they thinking?
Iyengar: I think what people are looking for in these haul videos, it's not just about finding what to buy and what's the right thing to buy, it's about finding what kind of things does my kind of person buy? So they look at her and they look at the way she dresses and they look at the way she's talking and they look at her name, and they think, "To the extent that I think that she's cool and I'm also 17, then I want to join her club. I also want to buy the kinds of things that she has."
Let's take a listen to one of them. And I know that you've seen this one from the grocery store.
YouTube video by Manolomandi: Hi, I just wanted to show you a haul and I just got back from Whole Foods and I got a whole bunch of new stuff... So I wanted to show you quickly... Two organic black plums, I got two -- I don't know if they were organic or not, but they are local -- peaches, four braeburn apples... The 100-calorie packs of guacamole, because I've been wanting the fresh avocados and I love 'em, but I can't eat more than half...
And Sheena, as we're watching this, we're literally waiting for her to root through her bag and pull out peaches or plums, and I do not understand why anyone would spend their time watching this.
Iyengar: Imagine that you're trying to figure out what are the things that you should be buying, what are the things that are kinda healthy. And you can read about it in the various news outlets on-line, in fact you can get a lot more accurate information than what you can get from, I believe that's Manolomandi, you get a lot more accurate information of what's really healthy to eat. But for people that relate to Manolomandi and see themselves as similar, then they're really curious -- "Whoa, let me see what she's buying, what's she eating."
Maybe that's why I don't get it. I didn't see any of my kind of person showing off a haul on YouTube. I guess I'll just have to make one myself, right? Or get, say, Rob Walker to tell me about what his haul video would look like today?
Walker: I'm a little bereft today. What did I... I don't think I have anything good. I bought some pizza, but I don't know, maybe the crust, I could've brought those home and showed those on YouTube. That's entertainment right?
Now that? I'd watch.