OPINION: Blind consumerism fueled by social media, influencer culture

We must break get-it-now commodity cycles for sustainable future



The convenience of the digital age is a major contributor to blind consumerism.

ANNABELLE PEPIN, Evergreen columnist

In today’s world, whatever we see, we most likely can get within a fairly short amount of time. Whether it is a newly-released song or a brand new clothing line that collabs with your favorite influencer, you can get it. 

Blind consumerism is the term used to describe the way our economic system works in relation to trends. Everyone needs material things, but not at the rate they are being bought today. 

Our culture romanticizes materialism and overconsumption, which pressures the young consumer to participate. The new song “Material Girl” by Saucy Santana, as entertaining as it is, fuels the toxic flame of overconsumption while accurately describing the mindset of the modern consumer. 

If you are unsure if you are blindly consuming, here is a scenario to consider: 

A TikTok comes on your For You Page that talks about a super cute, fashion-forward sweater that popular influencers have worn. Over a million people liked the video, which leads you to order the sweater as soon as you can. When you go to the website, it says there was one sweater left, so you buy it. 

Where is this item now?

In the back of your closet. At home. Not even in Pullman. Worn once (solely for an Instagram post). 

TikTok drives the culture of consuming unnecessary things, as does Instagram. These platforms give influencers the ability to profit from promoting trends, in turn leading their followers to buy whatever it is. 

This is blind consumerism in a nutshell, but this form of consumption has not always been the case for the way items have been purchased. 

Take music, for example. Music and entertainment have always been consumed through physical albums, CDs and talk shows that aired once a week or mixtapes on cassettes that had each song layered by hand – until now.

“Once you heard a song you liked, you either sat by a radio for hours to hear it again, or you bought an entire ‘album’ of 10-ish songs that you may or may not also like,” said Jill Boltman, former account executive for KISW in Seattle.

Nowadays, if we hear a song we do not like, we have a Spotify subscription that lets us skip the song and play whatever we want, whenever we want. Boltman said if you did not like a song that was playing, that did not matter because you had no control over the music you were listening to. 

The issue with listening to music through streaming platforms, as convenient as it is, is the fact that our patience is lost completely. Nearly every single song is at the touch of a button, which has only been common for less than 20 years. 

People are slowly becoming incapable of sitting through a song they dislike on the radio because of their quick access to any song or podcast. This pattern leads to their desire to consume every aspect of their life at the same speed that they can access the brand new Rex Orange County song.

The same pattern is seen when buying clothes. The fashion industry is one of the leading factors of overconsumption, especially in young people that use social media. 

Shoes, clothes, accessories – you want it? You can order it, and it will show up on your doorstep within 5-7 business days. 

As I have said in nearly every fashion-inspired column, fast fashion has to stop for the sake of the environment and the well-being of workers. But social media platforms are not helping to stop this harmful production practice. 

There is a fairly intimate relationship between fast fashion trends and college students. Ellie Lyke, freshman Digital Technology and Culture major, admits to purchasing fast fashion herself.

“It’s easy to get wrapped up into fast fashion because of all of the trends they provide, which can make it really hard to get out of it,” Lyke said.

Influencers quite literally influence this culture by never posting in the same outfit twice and getting fast fashion sponsors to send them clothes.

The influencer profits, which provides a very high budget for their closet, further setting a pressuring standard for the way young consumers should dress and present themselves on their social media. 

This “domino effect,” of an influencer promoting then profiting, to a consumer purchasing then discarding, is happening with every single trend on social media at an alarming rate. 

The frustrating aspect of blindly consuming products is that it really is blind

Of course we want to get the validation of wearing a similar outfit as a celebrity, whether it is subconscious or not. Trends are popular for a reason, but that does not mean you have to take part in every single one. 

It is difficult to have a sense of self-control when it comes to the fact that with one click, nearly anything can be sent to your doorstep or downloaded to a device. But mindfully consuming things that we need, rather than the trends we want to be a part of, is important if we want to slow overconsumption.