Saturday, October 8, 2022

What's It Like Being Poor on YouTube?

What's it like watching YouTube videos when you're under the poverty line?

Seems like an odd question to ask: because how are those two things related? Let me explain.


Now that smartphones are so commonplace that even low income folks have access to them (cheap ones, if anything), more people than ever have access to the internet. It's a strange world we live in, that many of us are unable to obtain housing and basic necessities, but can still scroll through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. We have the world at our fingertips despite being disadvantaged.

That being said, it's all too common to come across vlogs from celebrities and people with a LOT of money, showing off their mansions and expensive cars and whatnot... surely this should bother me, as a low income disabled person who could never afford those things.


But I don't care about any of that. I don't need those things.


"Average People" Priviledge

What bothers me more is when I watch videos from people portrayed as average or "middle class" (actually quite wealthy) giving advice and doing DIY's, reminding me that I do not have access to things I actually need that would help me function better.

ACCESS TO THERAPY

Too many times I've heard "don't be afraid of therapy" from a "brave" middle-class neurotypical woman sharing her story on recovering from her mild bout of depression. I'm happy those people get the help they need, and I have no shame around therapy. But it stings knowing that I cannot afford the intensive therapy I need to even scratch the surface of normality, due to being low income and having multiple complex mental health conditions.

I recently watched a video by a therapist on dealing with anxiety, the kind that makes you avoid socializing, going outside, making phone calls, etc. Her solution was to start small and do one at a time until you can gain normal functioning back.

I'm sure this works for most people, but as someone who never had "normal" functioning to begin with, this hurts. If I took her advice I would burn out eventually as I cannot maintain "normal" functioning. Sure, some days are better than others and I'm able to make calls and socialize on those days--but it's not sustainable long-term.

And seeing those same people well-dressed and clean, wearing pristine makeup while being filmed with a professional camera and lights, makes me wonder if they'd consider me a bum in comparison. I can't function enough to wear makeup or real clothes (PJ's all the way), let alone have the energy to create beautiful videos with my tired face... and yet I try to make videos anyway to share my story, feeling more and more small as I watch more privileged and beautiful people getting the limelight.

ACCESS TO RESOURCES AND SKILLS

I can't escape this feeling even when watching everyday stuff like DIY videos.

Me being thrifty and resourceful (because I have to be), sometimes I need to look up DIY tutorials for things like building a shelf or repairing an old electronic item using what I have. But what I'm met with is expensive solutions I can't afford. I don't have lumber or power tools or the skills to use them. Just cardboard boxes, duct tape, string and some command hooks.

My goal when looking up tutorials is typically to save money. Why are the most highly-viewed DIY videos geared towards people with a crazy amount of resources? I have to really dig to find any tutorials I can actually use, sometimes even from fellow low-income folks who were kind enough to share their advice.


We can't "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps."

I know lots of folks complain about those "special snowflakes" who play oppression olympics and get offended at everything. But they probably don't know how it feels to be so genuinely low in society that privileged people leading normal lives are either unaware of our struggles or choose to look away because they can.

How wonderful it would be to live in a bliss of normal life.

How wonderful it would be to have a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, housing without roach infestations, and housing in general. How wonderful it would be to sign up for an apartment without being turned down because I'm on SSI and don't make 2.5x the rent. How wonderful it would be to work a fulfilling job and make money without my SSI, my safety net, being cut.

Imagine a world where most of my fellow disabled friends weren't destitute and/or living in abusive households. Imagine a world where disabled adults had more in-home help and wouldn't have to live in their own filth due to disability. Imagine a world where the government didn't try to lock our kind into poverty because they assume we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and suddenly become functional.


So... What do I want?

Social media portrays a world all too ideal, as everyone is trying to show the best parts of their life and leaving out the icky stuff. This hurts everyone, not just disabled folks like me. It's unhealthy to think everyone's life is perfect and better than yours. I crave mundane normal things, I don't need a yacht or fancy parties or crazy adventures wealthy YouTubers experience.

I just want affordable, comfortable housing, normal accommodations so I'm not breaking my back hand-washing my clothes all day, and to live at least AT the poverty line instead of well under it. Government help is lagging far behind inflation and even food is becoming too expensive. Meat is a luxury, and more affordable processed foods are detrimental to my physical and mental health (try being gluten-free, sugar-free, and low fat on food stamps!).

I'm attempting to be positive.

I do realize I am spiraling. On good days I am grateful for what I have. But I struggle with high anxiety and OCD that hits me often, especially when facing potential loss of my safety nets, like doctors who won't take my Medicaid anymore, or when my food stamps disappear due to an error in the system, or when I'm reminded I can't move out of my parents' house because I'd be homeless. But I need to focus on the positives. I try hard to.

That being said, YouTube is a nice escape from my circumstances and anxieties. I enjoy watching thoughtful and educational content. Having interesting videos playing in the background while I'm doing mundane housework helps to keep my mind busy and motivate me. There's so much music to listen to and I have the world at my fingertips. I'm so grateful that I have a smartphone and laptop to access these things.

Thank you for listening to my rant. I wanted to at least leave this on a good note since I try my best to be positive and appreciate what I have. But it's also okay to vent a bit about the unfairness of life, it can be a weight off one's shoulders.

2 comments:

  1. I don't have a say about paying the bills I'm 41 and I haven't been able to work for almost 2 years now, but what I want to say is that your movie and this blog helped me identify myself as an autistic person and that's very important to me and I'm sure it has helped many people around the world who don't have access to health services or expensive sources of information about their condition. I don't know how it is in the US but poverty is not a minority worldwide, maybe you are just a poor person helping millions of others?

    Anyway seeing you trying so hard motivates me and reminds me that I promised myself long ago that I will live the life I want or die trying.

    And I don't think it's a rant, it's really not fair.

    Take care!

    (I'm sorry if it doesn't sound right, I'm not fluent in English)

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    Replies
    1. I'm so glad my movie and blog have helped you! Thank you, comments like this inspire me to keep at it.

      The USA is a wealthy country, but does have a poverty problem, and society looks down on poor people here. It's easy to get into debt because of surprise medical bills (sometimes thousands of dollars... our healthcare system is crazy), and easy to become homeless due to lack of affordable housing, and lacking social services to help people like the disabled. I'm considered under the poverty line since the maximum disability benefits (which I'm getting) is only $861 per month. It's difficult to find housing for anything under $900, and even the cheapest housing requires you to have income 3 times the rent amount (which is impossible for me). Luckily I'm living with family for now, but want to eventually have more independence. I have disabled friends in much worse situations over here in the USA, and feel for them, and it makes me want to change society (not that I can do much).

      I wish the US would handle poverty the way some other countries are, with better healthcare and social services, and not increasing the gap between wealthy and poor.

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