Posted on September 5, 2023 in Technology

When Does DIY Not Make Anything for Anyone?

Do It Yourself (If You Dare)

It’s no secret that a swarm of content creation accounts have made huge empires out of making things on camera. The twist, however, is that the final product is either dangerous, flimsy, or not even useful at all. You can repair flip flops with hot glue! You can make secret shelves with hot glue! You can make little dinosaur planters with hot glue! Hot glue is like 3D printing for people who don’t have a 3D printer! Don’t even get me started on the microwave. Ignore all of the people maimed by hot oil or microwaved eggs.

The content is usually either deeply unhelpful, targeted towards people with specific fixations, barely possible, or moderately dangerous. Lipstick shoes! DIY oil popcorn cookers made out of soda cans! Microwaved poached eggs! Why don’t you go ahead and pop the transformer out of your microwave and use it to burn wood? It’s only like, what, 2000 volts? It’ll kill you, and it’ll hurt the whole time it’s doing it, but the burned wood looks so cool!

This is rage bait. Cheap content not meant for humans to actually absorb and make use of. It didn’t start that way – those channels used to produce content that was bad, but still doable. When they started getting bad, or when people tried to recreate them in a funny way, Youtube (and other social media platforms) started promoting them to the front page because they were getting a lot of views and a lot of interaction. Ironically, by trying to show people how dumb and un-useful the hacks were, commentary channels only gave them strength.

Ragebait is great for views. Ridiculous stuff that could harm people trying to recreate it is also great for views. They don’t think you’ll actually make any of the stuff they feature in the video, but hey, even if you do, you’ll credit them and film it. Right? So they don’t actually need to make videos about DIYs that work.

Good channels showing projects you can do yourself still exist, but the big content farms seem to go out of their way to avoid making useful things. Nothing online can be taken at face value.

Do It Yourself (But Don’t Copy Pls)

Even when the DIYers are showing people things they made that do work, sometimes they don’t mean for other people to actually Do It Themselves. Two DIY TikTok accounts run by people with similar visions for their homes have come into conflict on TikTok: Kaarin Joy, a DIYer, was recently accused of copying TayBeepBoop, another DIYer. Both have posted videos about turning their houses into their dream homes, and both are maximalists.

Maximalism as it exists today draws in a lot of bright colors and wacky, strange, and fun furniture. There are different flavors of it (There’s a sort of Victorian kind, a Boho kind, etc.) but these two both went to the Nickelodeon School of maximalism. One cohesive color palette, a commitment to squiggly lines, and a bunch of brightly colored plastic decorations. Tay received DMs from fans framing Kaarin’s work as “an exact copy” of Tay’s projects, and decided to go through Kaarin’s account and point out the similarities as well as blocking her in a callout video. Were there similarities? Yes. Both are maximalists. Both post DIY content explaining how they did what they did. Both like the color green. Both have orange couches and both created a furniture item that could be described as a ‘moss mirror’.

But having the same style (maximalism) is not the same as copying. Tay’s moss mirror and Kaarin’s moss mirror are both the results of improvising around different problems, and they look completely different for both being the ‘same thing’. The people who tattled on Kaarin for copying were correct on a surface level, but not any deeper. Of course there’s overlap: they both like the same style. It’s like calling out a minimalist for using a lot of white in their decorating.

Even if Kaarin was copying, Tay is a content creator who shows people how she put together her home step by step! If she’s not creating stuff she intends for other people to DIY themselves, she’s doing a bad job of warning them off of it. Tay said she wasn’t even aware of Kaarin until the DMers offered her up as a copycat. Tay then went in expecting to see a shameless copier and didn’t give benefit of the doubt. Tay seems reasonable most of the time, but in this case she was pointing out years-old maximalist trends and furniture colors as evidence of copying. Furniture colors! If you were to buy an orange couch, and put some art behind it, you might be copying Tay. If you were to buy Tay’s wallpaper, which is not only in her house but also something she sells, then you’re definitely copying. Again, I want to believe the person doing the call-out didn’t actually look at what they were calling out. If she was actually saying ‘this wallpaper is copying’, she would be tacitly saying ‘don’t buy my wallpaper’. That just doesn’t make any sense. The drive to create content trips plenty of people up across all genres.

This conflict is almost inconsequential, a result of many thousands of people running out of freshly made TV drama to watch thanks to a strike and turning to online drama instead, but at the same time, deciding that using the same trends to get the same rough vibe in your house is somehow wrong is indicative of a deeper problem with creators. She knew it was petty (she says so in the video), but instead of blocking and moving on, she made a video about it. Personal twists on a larger idea are essential to style movements, not a problem with them.

DIY For Who?

Most DIY content is made, liked, and saved aspirationally. There are so many people with so many cool tips for fixing drywall, or painting a table, or doing something cool with pictures on a wall. The average person is not buying tables every two weeks and patching drywall every three days, though! The DIY content treadmill is a strange place to be, full of strangers who are looking to the creator for tips and tricks on things they may do later, or even admit in the comment section that they have no use for at all, and simply watched because the process was cool.