By Emma Di Salvo

Admit it—most, if not all, of the shopping you do, is online. Well, you’re not alone. In recent years, with more and more fashion brands going digital and influencers reviewing clothes and sharing various “unboxing” videos, purchasing online has almost become its own community. 

This new fashion community is where we can chat, make friends and compare outfits. But is it adding to our overconsumption of fast fashion? And what effect is this having on us, our finances and the environment? Let’s take a look.

The Influencer

For years, I have been watching various influencers on social media discussing, advising and reviewing the latest trends. I am not alone. A recent study revealed that a whopping 86% of people bought clothes online because they were worn by their favourite influencer. It helps that rather than spend countless hours worrying about what goes with what, you can sit back, relax and leave it to the “experts”.

Creating content centred around fashion is an excellent choice for any influencer. Many receive benefits such as monetary, free clothes and sponsorship deals. You may think that to achieve this, they would need millions of followers, but the actual figures may surprise you. Having less than 50,000 followers can earn an influencer anywhere up to USD100,000, whereas a more popular influencer can earn up to USD10,000 per post. Not too shabby.

How Much Are We Buying Online?

The problem lies here: we are consuming more now than ever before. The average American purchases around 5 times more clothing online than when social media didn’t exist. We are also more wasteful than ever, with the average person wearing an item of clothing only 7 times before chucking it away. 

Brands such as Shein and ASOS offer a variety of cheap clothing that follows the latest trends but for a fraction of the price. The problem is that the fabric used is often low quality, and the clothes may start to unthread, break and look worn quickly. 

Consumers are fully aware of this, yet seem to always return for more (myself included).

Why Are We Doing This?

When we stop to consider the reasons for our overconsumption, the truth can be pretty alarming. According to one study, external factors such as watching videos online significantly impact our behaviour, make us impulsive and have poor judgement. Our urge to consume and the feeling we get when making a purchase can be addictive. 

A rush of endorphins is released when we buy the clothes, but this feeling only lasts for a short while. So, what do we do? We buy more! This never-ending cycle is fantastic for the influencer and the brands they’re promoting but not so great for our wallets and mental health. 

Indulging in these behaviours can lead to severe problems such as depression, feelings of inadequacy, addiction and financial worries. Stopping any habit is hard, but being self-aware of our actions and thought patterns is vital to get a handle on our negative behaviour patterns.

Impact On The Environment

Another critical factor to consider is the environment. According to an article from The Guardian, overconsumption is one of the leading problems that our planet is currently facing. If everyone in the world only purchased what they needed rather than wanted, we would almost immediately see changes. 

Carbon emissions would drop, pollution would improve, and even the sky would change colour. In his book, The Day the World Stops Shopping, JB Mackinnon explores the general public’s attitudes about shopping. He points out that even though most people are aware of the problems overconsumption brings to the environment; unfortunately, fast fashion, special deals and advertising are simply too tempting and pervasive for us to avoid. 

What we wear has become so important that our happiness now stems from material things rather than things of meaning and value, such as friends, family and our own self-worth.

How To Stop

If this all sounds too familiar, worry not; all is not lost! The first step in fixing your overconsumption is to self-reflect on your shopping habits. Secondly, cut back on how much content you watch online. (If you must get your fashion Influencer fix, follow some sustainable content creators!) Thirdly, go through your clothes and see how much you actually own. It may surprise you! 

I did this recently and realised I had the same dress in 3 different colours and had never worn any of them. Once you know what you have, it’s easier to determine what you need.

Overconsumption of fashion is a problem we should all care about. It affects the planet, our mental health and our finances. It’s no secret that influencers play a significant role in our bad shopping habits. Still, ultimately, the responsibility lies within ourselves. Have fun, and treat yourself, but please, try to shop responsibly!