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The Vanguard

Lebanon Trail High School News

The Vanguard

Lebanon Trail High School News

The Vanguard

Digging up the Root of Consumerism

Why Do We Buy?
Digging up the Root of Consumerism

Consumerism is something nearly everyone has fallen victim to. Today, overbuying is practically necessary to keep up with trends and new styles. Has this bad habit been exacerbated by the content we consume and the current pattern of trend cycles and manufacturing?


To give you a short answer, yes. Almost everything around us is in some way subtly pushing us to buy more, whether it’s through direct advertisement or just ease of access. One of the most recent examples of this phenomenon is the current plague of social media: TikTok Shop. The cycle of fast fashion and cheap products that started with AliExpress,, SHEIN, and TEMU has now come directly to the app where trends are created and destroyed. TikTok shop sells products from anywhere, practically anything you can imagine, while also giving users extreme discounts and coupons. However, to keep receiving these coupons, anyone who buys a product must make a video advertising it and linking the product. This has led to a new wave of solely ad-based content on TikTok. On my own feed, nearly every other video I scroll past has a little orange button that will allow me to buy a sweater for only $10.99, or a handmade mug for $3.47, or any other manner of random, unnecessary object. 


This not-so-subtle advertising works. The statistics of people who buy from TikTok keep increasing, meaning that more and more ad content will be pushed onto people’s feeds. This unnecessary consumption comes at a cost. Overconsumption already has a negative environmental impact, causing thousands of tons of trinkets to be dumped and left to rot in landfills. Delivery and shipping processes generate carbon emissions, adding to the evergrowing crisis of climate change. Even if we ignore the environmental cost, low prices like those found on TikTok Shop as well as many other fast fashion and goods websites like Shein are often attributed to terrible labor practices in sweatshops. Workers in foreign countries are paid minimal wages to assemble products for hours every day, also put in danger by negligent factory maintenance and dangerous machines. 


However, TikTok Shop is a fairly new creation. If overconsumption has been a “trend” for years, where did it come from? 


The rise of carefully curated aesthetics and constantly shifting trend cycles combine with nonstop advertisement on social media to create the ultimate monster of overconsumption. Today, you may see a video or a photo or even something on the street that essentially tells you: “These pants are out, but these pants are in.” In two days, the opposite might become true. In a week, the world will have cycled through five pairs of pants that are socially acceptable to wear, and then we end up back on square one. With the rise of social media, pop culture, and fast fashion, trends are constantly flying by. The average person who sees content and people pushing these trends is very susceptible to falling for it, buying item after item to fit into the new and ever-changing norm. Especially with the idea of a personal “aesthetic” being popularized, people are driven to buy a lot of things to fit into a category, whether it’s their own idea of who they should be or someone else’s. 


This cycle of microtrends and random aesthetics pushes people to look for items that are cheap, quick to get, and easy to find. Websites and apps like SHEIN, Amazon, TEMU, and of course Tiktok Shop are quick to swoop in and follow these trends, offering the consumer a constant flow of “trending” and “aesthetic” items. Drastically low prices made possible by unethical labor practices and low-quality items provide an enticing, low-hanging fruit for those trying to curate an aesthetic or keep up with the trends. In the end, microtrends keep the world locked in a cycle of buying and discarding over and over again. 


In the end, if you step back and look around, it is easy to see that this level of consumption and waste is not in any way needed. The average person does not need 8 different pairs of cargo pants, 6 tops for each pair of pants, and 18 dresses with the same cut and fit. And that’s just in terms of clothes. Makeup, skincare, and even just regular household items are bought in excess, driven by the ease of access that stores like Amazon and TikTok Shop give us – anything you could imagine, at your fingertips. However, keeping just the necessities (even with the occasional treat in between) is a significantly better option. Minimizing your wardrobe, accessories, products, and general items will help to reduce your impact on the environment, prevent unnecessary waste, and keep you grateful for what you have. Although it’s not always possible to cut out consumption entirely, we can be conscious about what we buy and make sure that something isn’t in your cart just because it looks good or someone told you to put it there. 

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About the Contributor
Anoushka Kanitkar
Anoushka Kanitkar, Lead Staff
Anoushka Kanitkar is a dedicated and passionate junior at LTHS this year. This is her second year on the Vanguard Newspaper Staff. She’s an avid reader, writer, and enjoys listening to music in her downtime. Anoushka is thrilled to serve on lead staff this year and is excited to continue expanding into the limitless world of news and writing!

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    SnehalFeb 14, 2024 at 11:02 pm

    I loved the points put forth in this thought-provoking piece.