Unboxing Videos Become Unsettling If You Really Think About Them

Unboxing Videos Become Unsettling If You Really Think About Them

If you’ve hung around YouTube or tech-oriented sites long enough, chances are you’ve stumbled across an unboxing video. These are exactly what they sound like: videos where someone removes the packaging from a new product.

Right now, if you type in ‘unboxing’ on the YouTube search bar, it autofills in iPhone, iPad, Wii U, Playstation Vita, and Black Ops II unboxings. You’d think watching an unboxing of these things would be boring, but no, unboxing videos are hugely popular. Heck, we’ve done some unboxing videos too. Why not? People love ’em.

When you dissect the unboxing video though, as The Dublin Review does, what you find makes it difficult to look at unboxing videos the same.

Obviously, there is something hugely consumerist about unboxing videos, and that’s easy to feel guilty about. But the unboxing is also documentation of the very last moments of anticipation, the last moment where the gadget or game exists on this realm of possibility — when you unconsciously think, I’ve been waiting so long for this; this thing could be amazing.

Except it’s typically not as amazing as you’ve conceptualised in your head (or as marketing says it’ll be.) So in that sense, the unboxing video documents the last moment before “the slow, inevitable decline into disappointment and neglect.”

The Dublin Review also notes that by having unboxers be mostly behind the camera, the thing becomes an unmediated experience — so “it’s like one of those first-person-shooter games in which all the player sees of his or her onscreen incarnation is a pair of hands gripping a weapon.” There is a sense of voyeurism in that, which is inherently creepy.

And then, riffing off how some videos use the word ‘ceremony’ in them, they say that unboxing videos are a bit like “rituals without gods — unless, of course, the object itself is a god.”

The implications of that idea are unsettling when you think about it. The Dublin Review has more in-depth thoughts about the subject here; it’s worth a read.

It’s strange to think about how much of what we purchase hinges on hype, anticipation and excitement, and not what comes afterward during ownership. Sure, some people watch unboxing videos to become informed at what is packaged with a potential purchase. But there are also people who watch unboxing videos despite lack of interest in the product, like they’re living vicariously through the unboxing video.


Every Man His Own Shopping Channel [The Dublin Review]

Picture: Shutterstock


  • Meh. No worse than advertisements that show people enjoying the use of the product. The point is for you to vicariously experience the product and want more so you can experience it all the time.

    Unboxing videos are at worst, free advertising. At best, they might tell you something you didn’t know. It’s window shopping for nerds.

  • Well i guess this is what happens when people read to far into simple things, as Mathew K said it’s window shopping for nerds, In some cases it lets you see a product that is only ever boxed when you try to buy it, through the videos (like window shopping) you can get a rough idea of its size unboxed.

  • I watch unboxings of headsets to find out information that should be on the box. How do I hook this thing up to the 360.

    All I want to know it what plugs it uses. I use HDMI to connect to the TV and Optical to connect the TV to the stereo. So intercepting RCA’s (Red and White Y adaptors) aren’t compatible with my setup.

    Other than that sometimes it’s curiosity I’m not going to buy a $300 collector set, but I still want to know what it’s like.

  • That’s a little over analyzed. I use it mainly to see what comes with the package itself. Or if i need supplementary cables or accessories. Another is to gauge the size of an object if I am ordering it from America.

  • I can not stand these one handed amateur productions, fumbling about ahhhhh, get a damn tripod before you decide to do a video to show the world.

    Also who is interested in the unboxing process especially one handed, I would unbox it and then film the break down of the content and give a review pros, cons, value etc.

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