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  • Lily Warden

Stop Buying Stuff You Don’t Need: A Lesson in Overconsumption and Deinfluencing

By: Lily Warden

If you are on social media or involved in internet spaces at all, you have probably been victim to the newest trends. Today, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook are trying to sell you the newest kitchen appliance, or the newest piece of clothing that influencers are raving about. I am here to tell you not to listen to the influencers. You do not need everything that is advertised to you. 


According to a survey conducted by Best Colleges, 82% of college students report using TikTok, with 67% reporting they use the app frequently or somewhat frequently. Users of TikTok understand just how quickly trends can come and go. In the past couple of months, trends like “Vanilla Girl”, “Clean Girl” and “Coastal Grandma” have taken over users’ feeds, telling us how to dress to stay relevant. Social media trends are not exclusive to fashion either.  Back in 2019, everyone who was anyone had a Hydro Flask water bottle. When the Hydro Flask hype died down, Stanley cups rose and took its place. Now, if you do not have an Owala, you are behind the curve. Social media trends are changing at lighting speed, and it has gotten to a point where it is just not sustainable to buy the newest article of clothing or the latest Amazon product everyone is raving about. Are the trendy jeans worth the price if everyone is wearing something new in a few weeks? How many refillable water bottles do you need when they all serve the same purpose? 

Credit: Sun News Daily

TikTok user DepressionDotGov has recently gone viral for her deinfluencing philosophy. In her most popular video, with seven million views, she reviews a packaging video of a safety keychain and urges her audience to stop and think about the actual worth of these items. Since then, she has commented on different influencers showing makeup hauls, Target runs, and restock videos. In each of her videos, she breaks the illusion these influencers present and reminds viewers this kind of consumerism adds stress to our lives.  


In another video, DepressionDotGov shares why she makes videos about overconsumption and deinfluencing saying “Influencers regularly try to make a product seem like it’s the trendy new thing and that’s because they’re paid to do that. I come from a place of wanting to teach others not to make the same mistakes I did when it comes to purchasing garbage. I’ve repeatedly expressed that I simply want people to think before they buy.” Her tough love takes on influencers is harsh, but it might be the wake-up call some of us need. 

Many of DepressionDotGov’s TikToks have a similar format where she duets other videos, TikTok by @DepressionDotGov 

Advertisements on social media are not a brand-new phenomenon. One of the first instances of advertising dates to ancient Rome’s public markets. The invention of the printing press in 1440 allowed printed advertisements, and by the 1600s, newspapers began to include advertisements.  The New York Sun was one of the first companies to embrace a novel advertising model in 1833, earning more from advertisements than direct sales. So, if we have always been exposed to advertisements, what is the problem now?  


On social media, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish advertisements from regular posts. Particularly, advertisements have started taking the form of sponsorships from influencers. Influencers will post a video promoting a product that has changed their lives and rave about the benefits. Influencers form their videos like regular social media posts, trying to be relatable to their audiences and seeming like they are trying to help people out by introducing them to a new life-enhancing product. Sponsorships and brand deals are how influencers make money, but when it is disguised as a normal social media post, the lines of advertising become more blurred. By law, influencers must disclose their relationship with a brand when they receive financial compensation. Some influencers do this by tagging the post with #ad, but with the myriad of tags most social media posts have, the stated sponsorship can get lost to the viewer.  


Additionally, advertising on social media is now tailored to the individual. Have you searched for something online, only to see advertisements for similar items later? In the digital age, advertisers can track your online activity and show you advertisements based on your interests and preferences. While this means we see advertisements for things we are more likely to buy, it also urges us to buy things that we might not really need. 


Liah Kahm, a sophomore UMSL student studying middle school science education, speaks about her experience with advertisements on social media. She says “I’m constantly seeing advertisements on social media. The ads I see are very targeted. Sometimes, I’ll like one thing and then I see a sudden change on my feed.” Mekayla Jones, a junior UMSL student studying psychology and biology, says “I’m an avid user of social media. I’m always seeing ads for clothes and shoes. I do think the ads I see are targeted. I understand ads are trying to attract customers, but I try not to pay attention to them.” 


With the rise of influencers and targeted advertising, it creates an online environment that convinces users they need to purchase new clothes and products, even if they are things we do not need. I am not saying you cannot participate in trends. Following what is popular and participating in trends is how we relate to each other on internet spaces and connect with others. I am just asking for us to stop and reflect before we buy something we really do not need, or something we will use for a short time then discard when the new, better thing comes along.  Next time you come across a sponsored post, or a targeted advertisement, take a moment and think before you buy. Is this similar to something I already have? How many uses will I get from this product? Is this something I see myself using for a long time? If the answer is yes, then go ahead and add it to your cart. If the answer is no, then continue scrolling and save your money. 


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