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In the era of social media, our consumption habits have changed in a dramatic manner. The rise of TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and more has changed not only the way we communicate but also the way we purchase and consume products. I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately on how the digital landscape fueled by social media has reshaped consumer behavior, and a question keeps ringing loud in my mind: Are we over-consuming in the digital age?


The spread of social media platforms has been widespread in recent times, with billions of users worldwide. These platforms have built an environment where impulse buying thrives through highly curated content, influencer endorsements, affiliate programs, and targeted advertising. The digital culture of consumption and consumerism has really changed our behavior in many profound ways. I can attest to this firsthand. I've always been a consumer; we all are. But I feel like I was born to shop. My first job was in retail, and I've held many positions throughout the years at other fashion companies. I truly love shopping — from discovering new products to visiting retail stores, trying things on, engaging in discussions with the staff, and walking out with a newly coveted item. But I always shopped with a purpose. I never really went into a store and just bought something that I wasn't in need of or I hadn't already been considering. The only time I would buy something on the fly is if I felt it was an item that I may never come across again and it fit a unique category or use.



When I started Uniform Journal, I planned on editing down my wardrobe and simplifying the process of getting dressed in the morning; thus, the uniform. I wanted to get to the point where everything is essential and sell all the archives. Still, it turned into this cycle of overconsumption because of the pressure—mostly internal, but honestly, often external—to come up with new outfits and post them online. And, of course, the collaborations with partners that brought swarms of packages into my home that I didn't really need. Such is the reality of our times when our choices are no longer our own but are designed by very sophisticated algorithms and aggressive marketing by companies and influencers alike. It seems every other video is a list of what to buy or an unboxing of a haul from a fast fashion brand.


Today's content has become so curated to our tastes that it creates echo chambers that amplify our consumption behaviors, thereby erasing our self-identity and our ability to consume based on a real need or want. According to a recent study by Retail Dive, 72% of participants said they made impulse purchases based on social media posts within the last year. These statistics apparently indicate a strong link between exposure to social media and impulsive consumption.



The ability to see, buy, and receive in what feels like an instant is the heart of this consumption frenzy. Social media creates a sense of FOMO and drives home this desire for instant gratification. A study from Credit Karma found that 63% of Millennials and Gen Z consumers said they'd bought an item solely because they wanted to share it on social media. That really speaks to a lot of social validation and self-presentation driving these habits. But what lies beneath the surface of this rapid consumption? A trend in buy now, pay later services, such as AfterPay and Klarna, has made it easier than ever to splurge on impulsive purchases. The ease of access to credit and the allure of spreading payments over time can mask the true cost of these purchases, leading to a cycle of over-consumption and even debt. Many have also admitted feeling regret over things they bought because of social media.


Further, the relentless pursuit of trendiness isn't only impacting people's wallets, but individuality has taken the backseat to conformity. Now, trends come and go in the blink of an eye, leaving little room for self-expression. Keeping up with the latest trends can be overwhelming and lead to anxiety and dissatisfaction.


 This is true particularly in sneaker culture, where there seems to be the relentless focus to figure out the 'next' sneaker. Recently, a fashion publication asked, 'What shoe will take the place of the Adidas Samba?' But why does there need to be just one sneaker defining the moment? I believe it's part of this greater dissatisfaction in our society, intensified by the media and consumerism, telling us what we have will never be enough. 



Social media amplifies this message, where it speeds up spontaneous and impulsive purchases as we chase validation or strive to share what we've bought with others. It's a cycle prompted by capitalism and fueled by this constant search for the 'next best thing.' Yet, when the 'next' thing comes, where will the ‘last' thing go? The fact is that trying to dictate what will be 'in' and when it will happen often proves futile. Trends cycle around so fast these days, leaving us with one burning question: What's the point?


Responsibility doesn't rest entirely on the shoulders of consumers. Companies bear equal responsibility for this. Insatiable greed and the need for more value leads them to flood markets with all sorts of meaningless products, jumping on trends the moment they surface. The fast pace of production and consumption contributes not only to waste but also devalues the very trends on which they hope to capitalize. It needs to be acknowledged that trends in and of themselves are not detrimental. They are valuable in the ecosystem; they bring novelty and excitement.



The problem is that trends have become dictators to our behaviors, overshadowing our individuality and creativity. Instead of enjoying our individual tastes and preferences, we are trained to be on the lookout for the next big thing. Access to it has never been easier and more convenient, but trend bombardment has come at a cost to consumers, and now they have succumbed to this culture of over-consumption.


As we move through the complexities of the digital marketplace, it is time for us to take control of our practices and reframe our relationship with material goods. By opting for authenticity over trends and by being mindful in consumption over impulsive, we can build a far more sustainable and enriching approach to consumerism in the digital age. We should challenge ourselves to be content with what we have and resist the pressures of constant upgrading. At that point, we will be freed from the fast pace of trends and can gain control of our consumption.



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