What’s at the core of consumerism in the 21st century? It’s certainly not solely the rivalry among brands to sell us their products but also the competition among ourselves and peers. This is manifested through social media and the many millennials who try and influence us into buying material items that are not sustainable financially or environmentally. Think about it, you can’t scroll through social media nowadays without seeing the abundance of posts and micro-influencers advertising consumer goods. It’s like we have a responsibility to keep up with these influencers who are sent products to promote the consumer goods - it affects the social value we have in our inner circle as well as wider society. We want to feel worthy and money displayed through the newest brands and products which consumers promote becomes this measure of worth - thus perpetuating the circle of consumerism.
To post or not to post?
Brands and consumers utilise social media platforms to get real-time information about their audience's preferences and test new products which may be about to launch. The consumers want to see if the product is something that is ‘worth the hype’ on social media, and see if it becomes a trending product on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Social media is an excellent platform for storytelling, product launches, and new initiatives because of its flexible nature and the fact it is always evolving. Research studies have shown that many people rely on information and reviews, primarily from influencers, to help guide them for their next purchase. In terms of reach and impact, social media has significantly grown over the recent years and it is now believed that 54% of social media users look there first for information on products. Moreover, consumers’ buying behaviour is motivated by social media trends which the influencers have great power and control over. Brands, no matter how small they may be, cannot afford to miss the social media fixation and hype due to the large influence on consumer behaviour as a result of the content, images and promotions from social media.
Is this behaviour sustainable?
There is a sense of excitement and thrill that comes with buying and promoting goods and influencers are at the heart of this. Being able to promote goods, which brands send for free, can be a lucrative business in itself but it’s the lifestyle these influencers promote which is damaging to society. Seeing them in a new outfit every day on every post is what’s being fashionable is all about right? However, it’s not sustainable to buy a new outfit every day for the ‘normal person’ and unhealthy habits of self-comparison begin to arise. We have a need and a lust to ‘keep up with the Jones’, which in this case is the influencers, but in reality, we cannot do this and it’s certainly not sustainable for our environment. Just because an influencer posts a new product that is trending, does not mean it is something we need to have in our lives and if we feel like we need it, we should practice being sustainable.
Influencer behaviour and fast fashion are ultimately what consumers want - but it is not what our planet needs. Fast fashion culture has contributed to climate change with greenhouse gas emissions from this industry being more than the shipping and aviation industry combined. Despite this startling statistic, a staggering 57% of respondents said they owned new clothes which had never been worn before. This is something that is not environmentally conscious, and we should all be motivated to buy less and use what we have more by becoming more aware of the consumer goods we already have.
It's time to change
While social media is definitely not all bad, the chokehold it has on consumers is alarming and the influencer culture is certainly damaging the environment with the ethos of having more stuff and material goods equal more happiness. With the rise of minimalism and having the mindset of ‘less is more’, it may be time for consumers to rethink their branding strategies as in a current world that is on the brink of a climate crisis, the fashion industry cannot continue like this. We need to understand why we buy from the advertisements on social media and the psychology behind fast fashion in general in order to change.
Going back to the main question, I would argue that we are definitely influenced to buy from brands due to the influencer's work and the self-comparison mindset which has become so powerful in recent years.
I urge you to think of how you can make sustainable choices relating to fashion and promote these on social media to stop the cycle of consumerism and influence others into better behaviours that need to stay!