We live in a world where what people think about you matters more than ever before. People’s opinions of you can determine whether you get your dream job. It can either propel you forward or leave you stationery. This has become more obvious and more prevalent with the rise of social media. Something you said years ago can change your entire life. You need a constant supply of clothes and shoes because heaven forbid you wear the same outfit more than once on Instagram.
Social media is full of aspirational people who appear to have amazing lives, always look put together and seem to be living a dream. At the touch of a button, we have access to perfection and of course, that has had an impact on society. We’re in the age of information and everything is at our fingertips. As a result, consumerism has seen a major boom.
What is consumerism?
A simple definition of consumerism is those who partake in excessive materialism and are typically wasteful. It has both social and economic ramifications, leading to global inequality where the rich simply get richer whilst the poor are stuck getting poorer.
On a person by person level, social media plays a huge part in the rise of consumerism. In the 21st century, we have seen the creation of a new job in society: the influencer. They work through Instagram, recording their day to day and promoting different brands and products. They are modern-day celebrities and as such are role models in many people's lives from a young age. When young people see these idealistic people with expensive clothes and so much stuff, it’s aspirational. People believe that in order to fit in they need the best clothes from the best brands. It’s draining, both physically and economically. It's exhausting to have to try so hard to fit in and to be so obsessed with objects and vanity.
Rise of fast fashion
Social media and consumerism have added to the rise of fast fashion. Inexpensive clothing being produced at rapid rates has major effects on the planet. Due to the cheapness of the clothes made, the quality is typically worse, and the clothes are short-lived. According to the charity Greenpeace, in the UK we buy more clothes in a year than any other country in Europe. That’s insane! This means that around 300,000 tonnes of used clothes end up in landfills every year. Consequently, fast fashion, and in turn consumerism, has shown to have detrimental effects on the environment.
So fast fashion is bad for the environment and, in the long term, for our pockets. If that’s the case, then why is it so popular? Influencers certainly helped. Some of the richest people in the world right now are influencers like ex Love Islander, Molly Mae Hague. She rushed to fame after the show and started working for the fast-fashion company Pretty Little Thing. She is constantly promoting the brand and modeling for it and, with most of her fans being young girls, has hugely increased sales of the company. Companies such as this promise quick deliveries at a relatively low cost. As a result, they are great short-term solutions. However, with a quick google search, you can see that many of their negative reviews have the same common theme:
"The fabric is so thin and see through, is poorly made and looks very cheap”
If any of the clothes created through fast fashion brands aren’t made to last, this will result in the buying of a lot more pieces more regularly than if it was more expensive and of better quality. Therefore, we buy more and more things, throwing them away and leaving them to burn in landfills that will inevitably destroy the planet. Our consumerism is slowly killing us.
The polar opposite
Like with everything, some people are radically against the idea of consumerism. These are people who believe that life can be simple. This is a minimalist lifestyle. If you partake in this, then you only really buy things for the purpose they offer. It is an arguably happier existence as you have less chaos in your life and are living for yourself and not for those around you. It is also of course better for your personal economy; by buying fewer things, you spend less money. Common sense.
But what is better? Consumerism or minimalism? Is there really such thing as an ideal lifestyle? You may be happier caring less for physical products but it would cause a huge strain on the economy. Buying lots of clothes and other goods may make you really happy but you are contributing to environmental issues. Honestly, why is there never just a straight answer? It would make life so much easier!