“De-influencing:” Doing More by Doing Less

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This image shows examples of eco-friendly products. (Image Credit: EcoManiac)

Social media is one of the most influential things for the people of today, with an estimated 54% of people buying products on the spot or shortly after seeing an ad on Instagram. Sponsorships incentivize the most influential people to advertise products on their platforms, but as online shopping carts get fuller, so do landfills.

Styles and trends are constantly evolving, and it can be hard for consumers to keep up. While some stay strong, it’s only natural to want what’s popular. Thus, mass consumption has run rampant, giving rise to fast fashion and similar trend-oriented consumption cycles.

Fast fashion focuses on quick and cheap production. This leads to low quality clothes and a severe environmental impact; these types of production models use about 700 million gallons of water for one simple shirt and often exploit underdeveloped communities. Popular fast fashion brands include Shein and H&M, the former of which is infamous for child labor allegations and design theft.

The problem doesn’t only come from clothes, however. Expensive cups and electronics have become extremely popular, but these often come packaged in excess plastic or are produced unethically. These trends also exclude people who don’t have that kind of expendable income, with kids as young as 9 years old reportedly getting bullied for having any reusable cup that isn’t a Stanley tumbler (which costs $45 USD each).

Seeing this, some social media influencers have turned to de-influencing, a practice that embraces responsible spending and low-waste shopping. This can include debunking trends involving makeup, clothes, and appliances. These de-influencers also often include environmental or budget friendly options.

Some of the people have received backlash for their interpretation of “de-influencing”, viewers noting that saying ‘buy this and not that’ is just another way of promoting certain products to their audience. People like Aria Connor, a 36-year-old lifestyle content creator, note that this sphere of social media often comes with shaming other people and questionable values. Others, like Ruby Mains, another content creator, say it can instill trust in viewers because their posts seem more genuine.

An example of this controversy is a YouTube channel/company, Love of Earth. Their videos are usually unassuming lifestyle content, reviewing products and store selections, informing readers of low-waste life hacks, and offering health/hygiene tips. Most people wouldn’t assume they were trying to sell anything until noticing when the camera lingers just a little too long on a set of bath products. Upon following the link to their website, users can find a wide variety of eco-friendly products that are generally considered high quality. These products fall on the expensive side, a cup lid coming in at $7.50 USD.

While the channel generally seems like a welcoming space, there are a few things that are off-putting. The face of the channel commented in a video that she judges people who use plastic produce bags at the store, the caption informing watchers that they were only half joking. They’ve also been known to avoid commenting on advice about not extensively reusing plastic containers out of concern that the degrading plastic would contaminate the things stored in them, even seeming hostile when viewers expressed concerns about potential infections from continuously reusing a plastic mascara tube. Others suggest that they are only advocating for “de-influencing” and low waste living to sell their products.

There’s no right way to “de-influence”. It means different things to everybody, and the worst shouldn’t be assumed of someone because of the methods they use to discourage irresponsible and mass consumption. The issue is that as long as these sustainable products are expensive, the lower classes will not be able to afford them. They are forced to resort to low-quality products most of the time, despite the fact that they will have to replace them more often. The best way for everyone to help more people shop consciously is to work towards closing the gap between sustainability and affordability.

Written by Olivia Marant

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