The word “Lifestyle” is a Capitalism invention. During the pre-Internet area, the old-fashioned means of selling a lifestyle were through magazines and traditional advertisements. Fashion magazines for women, in particular, not only guide female readers on how to dress up in different seasons and all kinds of social situations but also deceive the readers into thinking by wearing the certain ways, eating the certain food, living in the certain apartments, and visiting the certain locations, they could become the models in the magazines as well. The majority of commercial goods likewise use a similar delusion. The housewares advertisements, for instance, often market that by using their products, the customers’ ideal lifestyle would come true. However, nobody would especially state where this kind of lifestyle came from, why people should dream about the same kind of ideal life, and who put this dream into people’s heads.
I moved from a small condo to a townhouse last year and began buying new furniture and decorating the house. That was when I started looking for lifestyle items online. To my surprise, there were tons of popular accounts on Instagram and 小红书 about room decoration and room interior design. All the photos looked really cozy and stylized, making you believe that your life would be as wonderful as the account owner if you lived in one of these rooms. It simultaneously stimulated your desire to purchase the same products and made your own small space look as much the same as the one you saw online. I, too, fell into this deluded-dream trap. After searching for the similar products (and also that was the period still during the pandemic and most of the furniture was out of stock), putting all my time and money to decorate my house as cozy as the pictures online and taking as many photos as possible, I was suddenly tired of everything and realized that I had been trapped by the dream-life discourse.
Recently, I often watch people’s daily routine vlogs on Youtube. Daily routine and morning routine vlogs were once trendy on Youtube. I was not interested in these videos at that time because I did not understand the motivation to peek into a stranger’s life. However, after watching several vlogs, I became very interested in these kinds of videos in a different way. Most of the vlogs present a calm and positive tone with the slow camera moving and relaxing BGM. These videos encourage the viewers to live a similar life, to be positive in their own life, and become better selves. But I am not interested in becoming a better person, instead, I am really curious about the real life of the protagonist in the video. I choose to call the vloggers in the video “protagonists” because I feel the videos are more fictional instead of a documentary, despite the context of the vlogs being people’s daily life. All of these videos are carefully crafted and edited by the vloggers. They represent a slice of the daily life of the vlogger, but it is a daily life that has been carefully selected and represented intentionally. Viewers are usually motivated by the videos. They desire to have a similar life by purchasing the same products used by the vloggers, and some of the viewers also began a similar routine as the vloggers do. However, viewers often forget or sometimes ignore intentionally that the daily life in the videos is not actually real. What I am interested in is the nonfictional and fictional; intentional and causal; selected and indiscriminate characteristics of these videos. In other words, the hybrid and bizarre status of the vlogs might be one of the major charms that attract the viewers to keep watching and dreaming.
I would call the hybrid characteristic of vlogs the meta-daily-life videos. They create a new image of our daily life and at the same time set the boundary of our imagination. The videos are meta- in a way that they are both real and virtual, and they are non-linear and discontinuous. The vloggers also become the influencers to introduce commercial products to their audiences. What the influencers mean to sell is no longer the traditional means of lifestyle, instead, they are selling a personality, a taste, a characteristic, a political attitude, and even a class. They are their own personal brand. The Influencer is the offspring of the commercial society and the Surveillance Capitalism.
So I really want to shout out: I am not buying your lifestyle things! However, “lifestyle” items are everywhere. They encourage you, persuade you, and stimulate your desire. They are using positive words to deceive you. They give you an empty promise of a good life. Nowadays, the minimalist lifestyle has already become a marketing tag, we have no place to hide.