How social media and self-comparison perpetuates consumerism.

The very beginning


Staring at my phone, my eyes grow weary and strained. It's only 8am and I'm already tired with social media. Since I was 13, I've been on my phone nearly every morning and every night browsing Instagram, snapchat, Facebook... whatever app was the craze. Now with children as young as 4 getting iPads to watch Netflix and Youtube for playtime, I can't help but think - how did this happen?


In Year eight in High School, I remember getting my first I phone for Christmas Day. It was white with a neon yellow Pineapple case with black sunglasses (my 13 year old self thought this was cool at the time). But I was thrilled! Instagram was the app all my friends wanted to download, so at 9am Christmas morning I decided to get it. Not to be dramatic, but since that day I can confess I've grown an addiction to social media.


That morning I looked online and saw what everyone else had been bought for Christmas, looking at their endless presents piled high. Not realising that this was a problem, It was the first day in my young life that I compared myself. The moment I saw those photos (of people's clothes they got from Top-shop, or their expensive hair straighteners from Selfridges), social media perpetuated consumerism.


Now that I'm older and at University, I can tell when people on Instagram are showing off or when a 'day in my life' videos look suspiciously set up. But when I was younger, how could I have told the difference? My younger brother now has the same issues whenever he looks on social media. Luckily, he's now aware of how fake it can be, which is why he hardly goes on it at all. I'd say he spends a grand total of 30 minutes on his phone a day, solely to answer texts from family or friends. Realistically, this is how it should be.


Confessions


Reflecting on this, I decided to look at my own screen time from the past week. This averaged between 3 hours 30 minutes to 6hrs 30. What was I doing on my phone for over 6 hours!


As a student living away from home, I usually go on my phone for a few hours on FaceTime to ring family or my friends. But surely this was not all spent on a phone call....


Confused, I looked at the time spent on each of my apps. I couldn't believe it! On Thursday alone, I'd spent 1 hr 29 minutes scrolling through people's photos on Instagram. Usually, I'm not swayed when celebrities advertise products to promote a certain brand. Molly Mae's posts for her PLT collections don't make me want to buy them, and neither does Kim Kardashian's Skims shape wear.


What I can't resist however, is when House of Sunny comes out with a new clothes collection. I'm sure all of you have seen their gorgeous green Hockney dress at some point, which was the fashion fave of Summer 2020 (You can ask Vogue).


In lockdown, I must have seen at least fifty different instagram models/ celebrities wearing this 'It girl' dress. Because I was such a fan of the dress, and the brand's sustainable message- I succumbed to the ads that plagued social media, by guiltily adding it to my basket.


Well-known for their ethical sourcing and sustainable methods of production, House of Sunny's no waste policy is perfect for a planet conscious buyer like me. However, I have to say, it was not cheap! The dress was mine...for a grand total of £98. As a Uni student this was expensive, but investing in an item of clothing I knew I would wear multiple times was important to me. Nevertheless a tiny part of me thought of how susceptible I was to the larger problem at hand- the consumer culture that perpetuates self-comparison on social media.

Tempting purchases


During lockdown, consumer culture rose dramatically. There wasn't a day that went by when I didn't see a girl on social media post her new loungewear set, or show off her newly learned makeup look.


The 'no makeup, makeup look' was the next best thing celebrities were sporting. With all that free time on my hands, I found myself searching Vogue skincare and makeup videos on Youtube, which urged me to buy that new Clinique moisturiser Sammy Robinson was wearing, or that red Chanel lipstick (that I could definitely wear- but only indoors). Now I must admit I didn't buy these, but. I did purchase an eyelash curler from Beauty bay, a matte foundation from YSL, a beach wave hair curler from LookFantastic... You get the picture! To say I wasn't going anywhere, I really did buy all those products for my one-walk-a-day to the park.


'But why did you do that?' I bet you're all asking in disbelief. Well, the answer is simple... but a little embarrassing (It was for social media, you know we all do it!). Even though the world seemed like it was falling apart every girl wanted to make it look like they were just as glam. How crazy is that?


Resolution time

My advice to you surrounding social media is to try and not let it affect you. That's easier said than done I know. Trust me when I say this; we've all been there at 11pm scrolling through a certain celebrities posts wishing you had their wardrobe, or dreaming about that holiday an influencer had whilst we were all stuck in our homes (and they were in the Maldives, sigh!)


What I can tell you is that I've definitely noticed a difference with both my mental health and my bank account by minimising my screen time and doing these fun activities instead:

  • I've started to put a book in my bag on the train to avoid clicking on those scarily catered Instagram Ads (Is it just me that thinks my phone listens to me when it advertises a top I was JUST talking about with my friend?).

  • I also like to ground myself with mediation or Yoga practice. (With all those images of products floating around your head after 5 mins of scrolling on Insta, calming breathing exercises should always be on your to do list).

  • Yoga or Pilates is a super fun activity - some stretching or core breathing exercises always help me to be centred, positive, and mindful. Why not try this for yourself?

Thanks for reading, and good luck!