by Sade Korbieh


$$ \large \utilde{ \color{Indianred}Social\ Media\ Is\ King} $$

Image Credit
[Description: Woman taking a photo of another woman with a selfie-stick with emojis coming out of the phone]

Image Credit [Description: Woman taking a photo of another woman with a selfie-stick with emojis coming out of the phone]

We’ve all heard of the domino effect, but do you ever think about how this applies to every part of your life? The decisions you make don't just impact your life but also the ones around you. When you buy an item online you are impacting someone across the world. The internet has made us interconnected in more ways than our ancestors ever thought possible. One place where this phenomenon shines is in the social media arena.

Social media connects us with one another and gives us something to aspire to. Seeing others travel the world and live lavishly makes us feel as if we are missing out if we aren't doing these things.

At the beginning, social media was seen as an effortless way to share our lives with our loved ones who were far away or even nearby.  It gave us a chance to show off large milestones such as graduation or an engagement without having to send out letters. The first social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram were released between 2005 – 2010.

However, there was also another up-and-coming industry during this period. Can you guess what it was?

$$ \substack{ \Huge \textsf{\textit{Fast Fashion}}\\[-2em] \textsf{\color{TAN}\ \ \ \Huge \textit{Fast Fashion}} }\\ \substack{ \Huge \textsf{\textit{Fast Fashion}}\\[-2em] \textsf{\color{Thistle}\ \ \ \Huge \textit{Fast Fashion}} }\\ \substack{

} $$

You see socially media isn't about posting pictures it's about selling dreams. It's about impressing others with how amazing your life is. When really most of it isn't even true. Why do you think we have influencers?

The companies caught on to this trend and learned how to use it to their advantage, specifically the fashion industry.

$$ \large \utilde{ \color{indianred} Fashion\ Takes\ On\ Media} $$

In 2007, a direct-to-consumer company, BooHoo, saw a way to revolutionize not only how consumers received clothing, but also how it marketed these items to the masses. This company was one of the first to realize the power that social media had, and they capitalize on it to this day. In 2017, BooHoo made 434 million which increased to 944 million by 2019 (Statista).

This large amount of growth in direct-to-consumer fashion companies is largely due to their use of social media and influencers. They see that brick-and-mortar stores don’t have the same appeal as they previously had and require a high amount of capital allocation to maintain the physical store.

For example, Forever 21 took the fast fashion approach as well, but they focused on Brick and Mortar. They didn't see how impactful the digital space was and by 2021 they ended up filing for bankruptcy and closing over 200 out of the 700 stores worldwide.

$$ \large \utilde{ \color{indianred} Instantaneous\ Purchasing} $$

Technology has completely removed the barrier to entry when it comes to buying products. It used to be that you had to actively go out and find new styles or flip through a magazine.

Now it is as simple as picking up your phone and scrolling through social media to see what outfit your favorite influencer on Instagram is wearing. With a tap on a picture, you can even find a direct link to buy the exact outfit.

This illusion that influencers live a perfect life causes the audience to buy into these notions and shop on the websites they recommend.

It has become a perpetual cycle of people trying to live up to this unreal world that can only be replicated by posting continuously on Instagram as if your life is like theirs, but it isn’t. We all live our own unique lives and don’t have to chase after the latest trends to be considered enough. But it is so ingrained in us that we do anyways. We even hope to one day be the influencer in question.

$$ \substack{ {\normalsize86\% \ of\ Americans\ age\ 13-38\ want\ }\\ {\normalsize to\ be\ influencers \color{tan} -Bloomberg.\ }\\

} $$

(Source)

Because of these distinct factors such as societal pressures and how easy it is to buy from the platforms social media has been able to grow fast fashion immensely. This word is repeated over and over but what exactly does it mean? Fast fashion is a phenomenon of fashion trends that change rapidly and are massed produced with a ready to use concept.

New styles of clothing are constantly being produced, and a new line of clothing can be made in as little as 3 weeks with some fashion companies. Since these brands are making such high volumes, it is predicted that by 2025 carbon emission will rise from 1 million metric tons to 3 million, water usage will rise from 141 billion cubic meters to 170 billion, and land usage will rise from 38 million to 41 million (Source). And these are just the stats for the fashion industry! Imagine if we added all the other industries in.

Image Credit
[Description: Landscape photo of trees cut down and piled up on top of each other]

Image Credit [Description: Landscape photo of trees cut down and piled up on top of each other]

The stats above aren't advertised when influencers are marketing these clothes though. People just see a pretty face and a nice outfit. Then, they decide it is time to buy which is understandable seeing that social media is so powerful. It turns out that reviews, photos, and videos on social media will impact a consumer’s motivation to buy a product up to 61.5% (Source). This means that if we see our favorite influencer promoting clothing from an unsustainable corporation such as Fashion Nova, we are more likely to buy from them. Even just seeing an ad for a product can cause a consumer to pull out their credit card.

$$ \large \utilde{ \color{indianred} Making\ A\ Change} $$

While influencers can help push these harmful agendas, they also have the power to educate their audience and help them become more conscious of their purchase power. It is possible to promote sustainable brands over fast fashion brands that are low quality.

This idea sounds easy in theory, but we must also understand that this is how influencers make a living so not all will be open to cutting their partnerships with harmful brands.

It is also important not to put all the pressure on the influencers because at the end of the day it is the companies that need to make a change. They are the ones creating the waste, and they tell the consumers we can be the change when really, they need to change.

Overtime, I expect that more influencers will see the negative impact of working with these companies and help to switch the narrative to making conscious purchases. The truth is that influencers have a significant impact on whether people buy green or not.

With all of this being said we must acknowledge that the inherent purpose of social media is consumption. Social media wants you to feel like you must always keep up with other people's lives and that if you aren't looking your best or doing the coolest things then you have automatically failed. This just isn’t true. Social media has warped our perception of what we need to be happy and that one of the things we need is an abundant amount of clothes. I am not going to sit here and tell you to become a minimalist, but before you buy that next thing think about if it is for you or the gram?

Image Credit
[Description: A green cartoon sweater with the words "Sustainable Fashion" written in the center with a green recycling symbol and flowers and hearts around the sweater]

Image Credit [Description: A green cartoon sweater with the words "Sustainable Fashion" written in the center with a green recycling symbol and flowers and hearts around the sweater]