Unboxing videos: unpacking our obsession with other people’s purchases

Last June, the always-outspoken population of social media pounced on their most recent prey: Matteo Guidicelli and his equally ruthless unboxing video on his YouTube channel.

from Instagram: @matteog

The clip, which he reveals was his first-ever unboxing video, shows the actor ripping open the sleeve of a brand-new PlayStation 4 Pro bundle, throwing out the user instructions, and then un-enthusiastically revealing the box’s contents. Comments were quick to pour in, expressing distaste over his careless unboxing.

Once the dust settled, some users started to reflect on the situation: why did it matter? If the celebrity obviously couldn’t care less, then why do the rest of us feel the exact opposite?

Relatable content

YouTube has been a haven for viewers who enjoy living vicariously through other people. These viral videos — from mindless pranks to make-up tutorials, and yes, unboxing videos too — are gateways to our deepest desires, our principles, and our priorities. This alone justifies the collective frustration.  We could’ve done a better unboxing job ourselves.

What  “a better job” looks like, however, is still roughly defined. What do we find so amusing about unboxing videos in the first place?

It’s all in the details

According to constructive comments under the video, what it mainly lacked were the most basic information about the product. When watching unboxing videos, at the very least, people want to know more about the product. More specifically, they want to know how the product looks, feels, and works beyond the flashy marketing.

In the same logic that we read product reviews hoping for a realistic evaluation, we watch unboxing videos to see if these products are what the pamphlets and commercials say they are, as confirmed by a real and similarly meticulous citizen.

Like Christmas as a kid

On a deeper level, people also seem furious towards the fact that the celebrity had one chance to do it right, and he did it wrong. This leads us to think that we watch unboxing videos to mimic the experience of acquiring the thing, which only happens once. That feeling of owning novelty excites the most of us, like a child opening a gift on Christmas Day.

If we watch these videos to chase that childlike high, then it seems to be succeeding both ways. For the last two years, YouTube’s top-earning creator was eight-years-old Ryan Kaji, the unwitting star of the YouTube Channel, Ryan ToysReview. He made $22 million dollars in 2018, and then exceeded this with $26 million dollars in 2019, just by taking toys out of their boxes and playing with them.

No hype, no highlights, no wasted warranties; just pure, wholesome fun, something his 17.3 million followers seem to enjoy getting a dose of.

Does the same apply to you? In your opinion, how did unboxing videos become so popular?


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