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The Black Hole of Social Media, Fast Fashion and Consumerism

Letters correspondent, Thalia, questions how social media informs our spending habits.

Tik Tok is the most consuming form of social media. It is the most downloaded form of social media on the App Store, and its users average at least one hour on the platform every day. That’s one hour of undisturbed scrolling through short-form videos designed to keep us engaged. The algorithm develops an intricate awareness of the user and presents videos meant to keep us stimulated so that we don’t stop. On its own, Tik Tok is a self-perpetuating cycle of constant consumption.

Fashion trends are extremely popular on the app. Innovating new trends by cutting up clothing or customising it in personal ways has inspired major fast fashion companies to do the same. Zara and H&M, to name a few, are always on the lookout for the newest trends so that they can profit off of other people’s designs. Fast fashion has always been an issue — companies mass-produce clothing every season, only for it to end up in the back of our closet when it goes out of style. In the era of Tik Tok, where trends come and go at an unprecedented speed, fast fashion is becoming increasingly unsustainable both mentally and on an environmental scale.

The youth are experiencing something that no other generation has experienced before. A child’s development up to the teenage years is extremely important for mental stability as children are at their most impressionable state. Constantly consuming content on social media decreases attention span and subliminally wires children to be stimulated by new things, whether it’s viewing a new post or gaining a new like. Being bombarded by so many clothing items on these apps makes us want what we can’t have. Viewing influencers wearing new trends each week incentivises us to do the same, as we operate under the illusion that hopping onto recent trends will make our lives seem ideal. This is detrimental to developing a well-rounded mindset because it makes it harder for the youth to experience fulfilment. It makes it harder to sit and complete tasks for long periods of time because we are so used to short-term scrolling.

Engagement with social media releases a chemical called dopamine which is responsible for making humans feel happy. This is why posting and getting more likes and comments feels good. Dopamine is the same chemical that makes us feel good when we drink, smoke and gamble – the hormone is highly addictive. There are age restrictions on all of these things, yet there are no restrictions on social media. Being on social media and requiring the external validation of our followers numbs the high-stress period of adolescence, which encourages the youth’s addiction to social media. As a result, many find themselves unaware of how to cope with high stress and anxiety, unable to form deep, meaningful relationships and instead, find fulfilment through buying goods. The high level of anxiety and depression in the younger generation is unprecedented. The issue of how they are wired to consume constantly is that when they face high periods of stress, they turn to a device instead of a person.

Instant gratification is at our fingertips. If you want to buy something, you can order it on Amazon, and it arrives the next day. If you want to watch a movie, there are millions to choose from. If you want to go on a date, swipe right. You can have anything you want instantaneously – apart from genuine satisfaction, fulfilment, and happiness. This is precisely why so many millennials begin startup companies that fail within five years. If results aren’t seen quickly enough, most people quit because they are so used to instant gratification. The long run is no longer a mindset; it’s something we’re conditioned to fear.

We are at a tipping point as a society. The constant stimulation that we are getting prevents us from becoming happy, fulfilled and innovative. It is important to take a step back from the all-consuming world of social media and fast fashion and question what really makes us happy because it surely isn’t buying new things or getting new likes. We need to rewire our brains day by day so that we are able to experience genuine satisfaction and build meaningful relationships.

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