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Can Technology End the Cycle of Consumerism?

How annoying is it to go shopping with an influencer? Or should I say, the friend who thinks they're an influencer.

You’re strolling through H&M, admiring the new range of summer dresses with their vibrant shades and floral patterns, and all they see is an excellent backdrop to their latest Instagram post. They always ask you to take a million and one photos, checking the angles and lighting, before they are satisfied with their photo. Then for the rest of the day you can see them in the corner of your eye, meticulously crafting the perfect caption, while you and the rest of your friends have fun.

Are you the one missing out? If we’re being honest, we all probably use our phones a bit too much.

Digital consumerism is the act of buying online, perpetuated by social media and technology addiction. Here are some tips on how to break bad digital habits, and how tech can be used to break the cycle of consumerism, that causes 43.9 million tonnes of rubbish to be produced in the UK each year.

Breaking bad digital habits: Tip 1: Ignore the trends.

Social media perpetuates trends by bombarding users with the latest fashion, make-up and technology, which increases the likelihood of us buying new things only to discard them for the next trend. Trendy items are often made with cheaper materials, like polyester. Trends might last two months, but did you know it can take up to 200 years for one polyester shirt to decompose?

Trendy items also come at a cost to the people making them. So keeping your things for longer and using them more really does make a difference. Find out more about how you can become a conscious shopper here: #USEITMORE.

Luckily, ignoring the trends is easier than you think. It also allows you to explore your own style without worrying about what others are wearing. Who wants to look like everybody else?

Try cutting back your social media use by 15 minutes every day by monitoring your screen time in the settings. Also, delete your shopping apps and replace them with alternatives like Depop, so if you feel like scrolling through Zara or H&M, a more sustainable option will be at hand.

Tip 2: Use your phone to reconnect with nature.

Consumerism has changed the environment and disconnected us from nature. Where there were once fields, forests, and lakes, there are now shops, roads, and concrete. Working and spending has become an endless cycle. So wherever you are, notice the nature around you. Take a moment to smell the roses. The bustling city life can wait for a minute.

I get it, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Saying we should forget our phones and start frolicking in fields to forget about consumerism is not going to work. So if you can’t be without your phone, use it as an excuse to go outside.

Try out some Augmented Reality (AR) apps to make leaving the house a lot more exciting. You’ve heard of Pokémon Go, how about Geocaching? It’s a virtual treasure hunt designed to teach you about the environment, available in locations all over the world. Or PlantSnap? This app identifies different plants, which makes a nice walk a lot more interesting.

Tip 3: Declutter your tech, declutter your mind.

Retail therapy is a myth. Personally, when I start to buy more things I don’t need it’s a sign that I’m feeling stressed. Materialistic tendencies have been linked to lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety. Now that I’ve noticed the pattern, when I feel like going for a shopping spree I speak to a friend about what’s on my mind or plan an activity I know I’ll enjoy.

Feeling stressed can be a result of being disorganised. As technology is so ingrained into our lives, this might be the best (and most overlooked) place to start organising.

Start by deleting apps on your phone that you don’t use at least once per week, then go into your emails and unsubscribe from any newsletters you don’t open regularly. Daily Hassles grab your attention throughout the day, which increases stress incrementally. By removing the small annoyances from your everyday life, your thoughts will become clearer and you will be more focussed on important tasks.

If you spend a lot of time on social media, it’s a good idea to unfollow accounts that make you feel worse about yourself. It might sound obvious, but many people will follow a celebrity or influencer they find aspirational and start to get thoughts that hinder their own self esteem. As soon as you start to notice yourself internalising someone else’s images it might be a good idea to unfollow them for your own wellbeing.

Is technology the answer?

If everyone incorporated these small habits into their lives, it could lead to big changes for the planet as well as individuals. Consumerism is exacerbated by the accessibility that technology gives us, as well as social media that’s designed to embed the fear of missing out into our thoughts.

We can empower ourselves by stepping out of the digital world and paying more attention to real life. Technology can easily have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing, so I urge you to leave your phone at home once in a while.

Scroll less, buy less, live more.


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