I read an interesting article on Buzzfeed yesterday discussing the way youtubers and influencers use the idea of “self care” to sell sponsored content. The article discusses influencers who shill products that allegedly help them when they’re feeling low, as well as influencers who post sponsored (i.e. paid to mention certain brands) videos with a self-care focus. It’s a good article and it got me thinking about the way we use and, yes, commodify self care.
“Self care” is of course not a new concept, but it seems like there’s a definite uptick in talking about it as of late (especially, for obvious reasons, after the 2016 election). From blog posts to YouTube videos talking about “10 things I do for Daily Self-Care,” “My Favourite Beauty-Related Self-Care Products,” and so on. There’s also been a lot of discussion about the concept of self-care in positive and critical ways, ranging from an acceptance for the need for self-care being beneficial in fighting the stigma surrounding mental health to the inequality of “self-care” being limited to those who have the time and resources to achieve it.
The materialism often underlying self-care talk that’s examined in the Buzzfeed article is something that’s come up before, and I think it’s an interesting discussion. Part of this comes from the fact that some youtubers and bloggers who frequently talk about their self-care routines also gain emotional credibility from their audience through their openness about their struggles with mental health. While their efforts to work against the stigma of mental illness is admirable, there’s also a definite backlash against people equating “self-care” with a treatment for mental illness. There’s this whole history of people saying, “Oh you’re depressed? Just do something that makes you happy” that doesn’t acknowledge that mental health treatment often requires medical treatment because it’s a medical condition, not just a bad feeling, so the ire is understandable.