Editorial: Social media creators promote overconsumption

By: Dana Hathaway, Ella Marrufo, and Saya Alvares 

Editorial Editor and Sports Editors

Between online clothing orders, Doordash, and Amazon Fresh, ordering without interacting is seamless in the digital era. It is astounding how many products and services we have access to — the Google search “buy high heels” brings up 240 million results. So how do consumers narrow down their search? Now, rather than asking friends for advice, consumers turn to social media influencers for product recommendations and where to spend money. While this may be an easier route than narrowing down the vast influx of Internet recommendations, content creators frequently overbuy and overconsume. Therefore, the Los Gatos community must do its part by combating unrealistic over expenditure on social media and implementing conscious buying practices into its shopping.

Constant consumption is everywhere on the internet. One especially wasteful trend is hauls — buying many products for the purpose of sharing on social media. Huge 500 dollar splurges from Los Angeles’ luxe grocery store, Erewhon, and TikToker Darcy McQueeny’s endless Amazon purchases exemplify this issue. New clothes. New makeup. New skincare. Social media promotes the idea that bigger, better, and more expensive is the way to go when shopping. We must acknowledge that our favorite influencers have the means to dish out thousands of dollars at Ulta beauty, or buy the new 600 dollar Dyson Airwrap “just to try.” This behavior is not something that the average consumer can, or should replicate. Encouraging unhealthy spending habits to impressionable fan bases can be damaging, especially to teenagers who are only beginning to develop financial awareness.

TikTok in particular promotes excessive spending. As TikTok’s primary audience consists of 10 to 19-year-olds, it’s easy for individuals to desire a life like their idols online as their brains are not fully developed. Internet personality Alix Earle is just one example of someone who went viral in a short amount of time, and whose lifestyle is unattainable for the average person. Earle, a University of Miami student, goes out every night, buys a new outfit every day, and frequents red carpets and yachts. Earle has an audience of millions on TikTok. While it is not necessarily harmful to watch these videos or to observe someone living their “dream” life, it is important to recognize that these are not normal people; their livelihoods are their social media presence. Most influencers’ money is made by paid promotions, where companies pay influencers to promote their product.  Followers who watch these promotions are often unaware that the influencers are making a profit off of what they’re advertising, adding to the harm of over-purchasing. 

Another easy trap to fall into is excessive buying of food. One of the current trends on TikTok is to buy up as much food as possible from the healthy, all-natural grocery store, Erewhon, and to show off hauls to users as if food is meant for display and not for consumption. One user Brook Baevsky, better known on social media as Chef Bae, added to this particular trend when she made a video titled, “The Most Erewhon Ice Cream Sundae to Exist.” In this video, she creates a sundae using upwards of 40 ingredients including beauty powder, black caviar, and 24k gold flakes, though she noted that “18k gold will work just fine.” It is difficult to imagine that she actually finished this meal when it includes caviar and edible gold, which are clearly intended to impress her audience and not to be appetizing. In addition, this video spawned countless other imitators also attempting to go viral; in these videos they encourage followers to spend hundreds of hard-earned dollars while the creators themselves make lofty profits from promoting these businesses. 

Developing sustainable financial habits is a learned process — one that is especially important in the new age of social media. When buying, here are some steps to take to ensure the purchase is worthwhile and avoiding overconsumption. First, ask yourself: “Is this purchase necessary? Do I need it?” If the answer is no, consider how the product will affect your life financially. For example, a Kindle could save money previously spent on paperback books, whereas a brand-new bolero top may not be a helpful purchase. 

Secondly, consider your motivation for buying the item. Are you buying the Sol de Janeiro spray just because you saw someone using it on social media, or have you been looking for a perfume for months? In addition, remember to consider whether the item is useful long term. For clothing, avoiding fast fashion is much more sustainable given that the items will be usable for longer when investing in slower fashion. For all purchases, researching quality brands and materials can increase longevity as well. If you are still convinced you want this product, question whether it needs to be new. Websites such as ThredUp, eBay, Poshmark, and Depop can be great sources for items, especially clothes. Not only do you keep trash out of landfills, but items are often cheaper. 

Finally, delay your purchase. By waiting a week or even a month before purchasing, you can avoid many spontaneous purchases and ensure that you actually want the product. This often stops the trend-based overconsumption promoted by social media.

In the new era of technology, overconsumption and impulse buying have become more common than ever. With the growth of social media platforms like TikTok, content creators have been able to easily influence their audience to buy practically anything as long as they were seen promoting the item; it is so easy, in fact, that #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has 4.52 billion views. However, this rapidly growing trend does not have to be the new norm. To break the cycle, consumers must have self-awareness and caution when purchasing material goods and food. If people can achieve this, they will unlock a pathway toward sustainable choices as opposed to wasteful, unnecessary ones. 

(Sources: Forbes, People, TikTok)

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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