I couldn’t quite believe the thing when I first encountered it – the unboxing video on YouTube that shows some new piece of equipment being removed from a cardboard box. The presenter is sometimes in a studio but mostly is seen in a bedroom or at a kitchen table. Some of the people making the video are surprisingly good speakers but all of them betray a trait that they may come to regret – geekiness.
Instructional films are not new. Some, like the anti-VD productions, are essential to our health and well-being. I saw one USN production from WWII on how to fuel an alcohol-powered torpedo that was probably essential to the well-being of a lot of people…not least of whom were the film crew and the nervous sailor pouring in the fuel. But unboxing videos are not teaching us how to do anything that we do not know how to do already. So there must be some other reason for their existence and popularity.
I do have a soft spot in my heart for enthusiasts – provided they are not beating a political or religious drum in my ear. Sheer joy at what you are doing is an infectious thing and makes me happy to seeit. I am a sucker for little dogs running around the park. So part of what I see with the speaker is actually appealing. But it can start to become stale and then slide off the plate when the video continues for ten minutes and does nothing more than hold the object up to the light. I find my attention wandering away from the shiny new toy and on past the presenter to concentrate on the decor of the room or what the background sounds might be. I count it a win when I hear barking or police sirens.
Given the culture of order-try-return that seems to have developed in the USA with the on-line retail phenomenon, I think I would like to see the development of the corollary to the unboxing video – a filmed presentation of the enthusiast re-wrapping whatever it is that he has bought from B&H or Adorama and getting it ready for return. The sound track would be more interesting, as it would be likely to contain all the self-justifications and phony complaints that are going to be used to try to get the money back. Just as endearing, but in a scabbier sense…It has been argued that the return policies of the American on-line retailers have been developed to prevent sad customers, but from what I see on the unboxing channel they are ALL sad customers…