Picture this: Every time you open your wardrobe, you see that each item of clothing you own is one you immensely love. You’d wear all your clothes over and over again and there isn’t one piece in your possession you regret buying. This is a scenario most of us don’t get to experience because of our peculiar tendency to overconsume.
Advertising was always big back in the day via television, radio, magazines and billboards. Today, however, the interaction is far more intimate. Online influencers have made it very easy for brands to promote their products with a farther reach while making the arrangement seem more authentic. Seeing influencers hold up a product to sell on our phones is much more impactful than a giant billboard of a celebrity on the highway, and no matter how resolute a person, advertising gets the job done.
Most of us know how it works. But also, most of us don’t prefer to think we’re gullible. Nevertheless, a younger audience isn’t as good at identifying the difference between when their favourite online personality shares a personal struggle and when their opinion on a product is biased. It’s for this reason advertising to children is considered a criminal offence in many parts of the world. Another major concern is that some brands promoted by these influencers aren’t ethical (such as Forever 21, SHEIN, The Face Shop). And lastly, larger influencers seem to have more questionable choices in the brands they promote (such as detox teas, skin lightening creams and supplement pills).
Having said that, it wouldn’t exactly be fair to hold influencers to a high standard (at least not the multi-millionaire ones), because saying no to money is easier said than done especially when the income isn’t guaranteed or steady. Traditional celebrities have always been a part of endorsements, but the blame of shoving new products in our faces has been solely placed on online creators because as mentioned before, the setup is more intimate. Now, there isn’t a higher incentive than money and so nothing can really prompt an influencer to take a step back, evaluate their actions and entirely put an end to accepting sponsorships. For us to expect better of them does seem unfair or at least unrealistic, considering the manner in which these sponsorships work and how effective and profitable they seem to be for the parties involved. Yes, in a perfect world, influencers and traditional celebrities would use their impact to promote a moral lifestyle, with respect to consumption – to buy less or to buy sensibly, but that is far from the reality we live in and also fairly unlikely in the current scheme of things. All this to say, the responsibility for the most part, does fall on us. The consumers.
Whether one is a discerning adult or a naive child, selling and buying things is an incredibly easy task today. Even if we know that a certain influencer is paid to talk about something, that something catches our attention quicker than before. Advertised or not, this happens with almost anything because coming across new things and buying new things is effortless now. A sale on Amazon or Myntra is all that’s needed to make us add items to cart mindlessly and this is all thanks to a very basic human weakness: We always want what we don’t have.
There are certain things we crave to buy constantly – clothes, shoes, gadgets, almost anything and we’re convinced that when I own this thing, I’ll be content. However the instant we get the thing we so badly wanted, we often realise (but don’t always admit) that it didn’t make us that happy. But the cycle repeats because we’ve already found the next thing we want to have that’s now stuck in our minds.
I did this a lot when I was younger, garnering interest in makeup. At the time I couldn’t buy what I wanted when I wanted it, so I’d build up my desire for a new lipstick for months and after saving up, finally buy it only to find myself underwhelmed by my lack of ecstatic emotions. It’s simply not exciting anymore when something is in your possession. The craving is what causes us a false sense of excitement attached to the item. We want what we don’t have and it’s owning a certain thing that’s more important to us than the thing itself. This cycle causes us to always want more and more. Upon understanding this basic human behaviour that we all succumb to, it’s easy to remark how silly it all is and how often we seem to be nothing but mere puppets to our shortsighted greed.
Being a conscious consumer should be appealing but the only thing stopping us, simply put, is materialism and our bizarre need for instant gratification. We’re constantly in the loop of the latest launches and online retail makes the process of purchasing all the more convenient. Brands, with or without their collaboration with influencers, always set out to convince us that this face serum is what your skin needs or this cool jacket is what your wardrobe’s missing. The brand’s looking out to make a profit and despite our awareness of this, we do fall for the schtick because ‘the more the better’. Not to mention, we can’t bear to miss out on what’s trending this season. The supply-and-demand cycle is a thing which places a lot of disregarded accountability on consumers. In the world of digital marketing, we need a better sense of understanding to truly recognise that an item that’s trending or heavily promoted, doesn’t entail our attention or money. It’s not something we’re ever taught but in actuality, nothing changes if we own fewer things. Our lives don’t become any less adequate or lacklustre. By not buying something, we don’t deprive ourselves of a specific joy that’s tied strictly to owning that thing, but instead, start to recognize the irrational need for some temporary exhilaration. Something that isn’t talked about enough in this whole regard is that there is a lot of freedom in not wanting to want things all the time.
Smart or conscious consumerism is the core concept of ethical and sustainable lifestyles, which are getting traction due to people’s growing sense of morality and the climate change movement. Ethical consumerism relates to boycotting brands that have adverse and unfair practices damaging human lives, animal lives and the environment, which most large corporations we know and love are guilty of. Sustainability promotes the understanding of using money wisely to invest in items that have value for longer periods of time – a ‘quality over quantity’ approach when buying things, in addition to the consideration of its impact on the external world after usage.
Basically, conscious consumerism prioritizes need over want, at least to some extent. It encourages a level of awareness and presents some power in the hands of the consumer. The concept should be appealing because one can save time, energy, space (by not hoarding) and what supposedly matters the most – money.So it is interesting to note that the only thing pushing us to excessively buy things we don’t need is that temporary pleasure, knowing well that most things we want won’t give us joy in the longer run, but instead clutter up our homes and make our wallets lighter. Being mindful of where and how we choose to spend our money should not be inconsequential. After all, opening a wardrobe full of clothes we’re obsessed with seems amazing. Food for thought.
Thank you so much for reading! ❤
[Photo credits: Cover photo (edited by me) – #NykaaLand Ad | Indian influencers photos – instagram.com/sejalkumar1195, instagram.com/bhuvan.bam22, instagram.com/santoshishetty, instagram.com/carryminati, instagram.com/thatbohogirl, instagram.com/ashishchanchlani, instagram.com/komalpandeyofficial]