De-influencing: Is Ethical Consumption Becoming a Trend?


Gabby Bell, Contributor

It goes without saying that TikTok has a direct influence on consumer habits. The social media platform is notorious for its quickly changing trend cycles, always offering users something new to buy. With the “I want it, I have to have it” theme on the app and appearing across social media platforms, fashion and beauty trend cycles are operating at unsustainable levels, while simultaneously providing content creators a chance to promote products that may not even align with their own interests. 

Whether it’s a TikTok telling you why you need a trendy water bottle, an Instagram ad for 20% off an online shop, or the amazon storefront link with “MUST HAVES,” shopping habits have tainted social spaces. It becomes a game of repetition of influencers sharing products they supposedly love followed by the public then buying this product in hopes that by having it they can be like the creator they see on their screens.

De-influencing is among one of TikTok’s newest trends with more than 76 million views on the app, sparking a conversation about overconsumption and the role of social media in consumer culture. So what exactly is de-influencing? The term means exactly what it sounds like; creators influencing you not to buy what does not appear to be worth the money. It’s essentially based on the fact that a lot of Gen Z is rejecting capitalism and consumerism and embracing sustainability. De-influencing has created sub-trends within itself with the rise of “dupes” and alternatives to the products influencers are selling to their following. It boils down to a simple concept: buying something will not make you a better person. The simple fact that you buy something that a content creator has does not mean that you will attain the type of lifestyle they are living. 

Recent controversies are to blame for the rise in people rejecting consumer culture on social media. There has been a massive shift in how the average person reacts to the unattainability of the influencer lifestyle. It also raises questions about the ethicality of the compensation influencers receive for the work they do. With content creators making upwards of tens of thousands of dollars per video with products they likely receive for free, it is questionable whether it is fair for them to encourage viewers to spend money on these same products they are being gifted. This has led viewers to question the position of wealth and privilege associated with being an influencer in comparison to other day-to-day jobs. The average person no longer wants to constantly see someone living a lavish, wealthy, and materialistic lifestyle when they can barely afford their basic necessities. People are moving away from being influenced to make expensive purchases by wealthy people when there are cheaper and more functional options available. 

Looking back at the sustainability efforts, the words American and consumerism are now associated hand in hand. Though this wasn’t always the case, it is creating the emphasis on buying the next best thing. The trend, on the other hand, encourages viewers to be more intentional about their purchases; making sure that when they buy something, they actually want it. The problem is that there is a side of the de-influencing trend that is still encouraging people to buy. Instead of buying the expensive products everyone has, it is promoting cheaper alternatives. This idea defeats the purpose of the trend, making it just as easy for people to buy things without realizing that they are still being influenced to make the purchase.

As an individual, making an impact on consumption levels as a whole is difficult. Consuming less is far more beneficial than consuming more. In a time of economic uncertainty, people are over being told to spend money on things they don’t need. 

It will be interesting to see the progression of the trend as people continue to reject the influencer lifestyle and American consumer culture. It is possible that we see a shift in influencer culture that comes with more financial awareness. It’s easy as college students to buy everything we want without even having to leave campus. Buying things simply because an influencer says you need it makes you trendy but unoriginal. As consumers, we should be more cognizant of what we choose to spend our money on and ensure that we actually want something before we buy it.