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Hall: America’s E-Commerce Consumerism Crisis

Platforms like Facebook Marketplace and TikTok Shop use advanced algorithms that meticulously track user behavior, preferences and engagement patterns.
Hailey Danielson
TikTok creating a place for the creator and consumer. (Photo by Hailey Danielson | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Consumerist culture is rampant, fueled by social media giants like TikTok Shop and Facebook Marketplace. These e-commerce companies have eliminated barriers between browsing and buying, causing consumers to purchase with a simple tap, often without a second thought. As users mindlessly scroll through their feeds, a relentless stream of ads and influencer endorsements bombard them. 

This constant exposure creates an illusion of necessity, compelling users to believe they need advertised products. The strategic placement of these ads and endorsements within the entertainment content they consume makes the commercial messages harder to resist. 

These platforms and others are exploiting our scrolling habits to fuel reckless consumerism. We must recognize their manipulative tactics and commit to mindful, sustainable consumption to protect our wallets and the planet. 

The Illusion of Authenticity

Influencers play a pivotal role in our consumerist culture. Through sponsored posts and strategic product placements, they create an artificial sense of “fear of missing out among their followers. Marketers craft these posts to appear genuine and relatable, seamlessly blending promotion with the influencer’s personal life. 

As a result, influencers entice their followers to emulate their lifestyles. They believe purchasing the same products will bring them closer to achieving similar happiness and success. These tactics are deeply rooted in manipulation.

Influencers often present curated, highly edited versions of their lives, showcasing only the highlights and most desirable aspects. This creates an unrealistic standard for followers, who feel inadequate or left behind if they do not keep up with the trends. The carefully staged images and videos make it seem that these products are essential for attaining a better quality of life, leading followers to believe that their lives will improve if they mirror these online personas. 

The Art of Persuasion

The success of TikTok Shop and Facebook Marketplace is also due to their sophisticated psychological tactics. These platforms use advanced algorithms that meticulously track user behavior, preferences and engagement patterns. Analyzing this data, they curate a bespoke feed for each user, making products displayed incredibly tempting.

Brands further enhance the personalized shopping experience by strategically using limited-time offers, flash sales and exclusive deals. These marketing strategies create a sense of urgency and scarcity, compelling users to make quick decisions to avoid missing out on seemingly great deals. 

Moreover, purchasing triggers a dopamine release in the brain, providing a short-term reward and satisfaction. This dopamine hit reinforces the behavior, making the act of buying habitual. Over time, this reinforcement builds a cycle where users repeatedly turn to these platforms to satisfy their shopping urges. 

The Environmental Toll of Mass Consumerism

Our addiction to social media shopping is wreaking havoc on the environment. It is a destructive obsession. As platforms encourage relentless demand for new products, they significantly strain natural resources and exacerbate waste, contributing to environmental degradation. 

Fast fashion, for example, relies heavily on water, energy and raw materials like cotton and synthetic fibers. The fashion industry is notorious for its resource-intensive processes. It takes approximately 2,700 liters of water to produce a single cotton shirt, enough to meet the drinking needs of one person for 2.5 years. 

The constant exposure of fast fashion on social media platforms leads to increased production and, consequently, greater waste. Manufacturers design fast fashion items for limited use, prompting consumers to discard them after wearing them a few times. This adds unnecessary waste to the 92 million tons of textile waste generated annually. In addition to the environmental impact, the rapid turnover of fashion trends promoted on social media perpetuates a culture of consumerism. This encourages constant purchasing, followed by immediate disposal. This cycle strains the environment and perpetuates unsustainable consumption habits, further exacerbating the problem. 

Breaking the Cycle

To address this issue, we must evaluate our engagement with social media and its influence on our shopping behaviors. By understanding how these platforms manipulate our desires, we can begin to make more conscious and informed choices. All members of society must develop the ability to recognize and resist the lure of mass consumerism. Emphasizing the long-term benefits of mindful consumption over the satisfaction of impulse buying will help us break free from this cycle.

Promoting transparency and accountability within the fashion industry is crucial. Consumers must demand ethically and sustainably sourced products while holding brands accountable for their environmental and social practices. Encouraging all consumers to support initiatives that promote circular economies, such as second-hand markets, will reduce the demand for fast fashion. To advocate for systemic change, we must collectively embrace a more sustainable approach to consumption. Doing so will mitigate the harmful effects of social media-driven consumerism on the environment. 


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About the Contributors
Lexi Hall
Lexi Hall, Opinion Writer
(she/her) Lexi is double majoring in English and Communications with an emphasis in Journalism at the University of Utah. She is from Las Vegas, Nevada, and came to Salt Lake City because she loves the outdoors. Lexi spends most of her time reading books and going to concerts with friends. She hopes one day to become an English Professor and a Journalist.
Hailey Danielson
Hailey Danielson, Photographer
Hailey Danielson is a junior in the Honors College at the University of Utah, majoring in English and communications with an emphasis in journalism. She was born in Idaho and went to high school in Santa Barbara, California. Hailey hopes to one day use her passion for reading to pursue a career in publishing.

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