This Season’s Hottest Trend: Anti-Consumption

Deinfluencers are inviting us to consume less—is it just a fad?

In These Times Editors

(Illustration by Terry LaBan)

de · in · f lu · ence

verb

1. using social media to discourage the consumption of unnecessary, overpriced and unsustainable products

How did deinfluencing” get started?

Apparently in January on beauty TikTok,” that corner of the popular video app where users promote tips, tricks and products in the world of skin care and cosmetics, and the trend has spread into everything from fashion to electronics to kitchen gadgets. No,” deinfluencers are saying, maybe you don’t need Dior lipstick or $500 AirPods.” And people are listening: #deinfluencing TikToks have more than 400 million views. It’s in response to the $16 billion-and-growing influencer” industry, in which brands sponsor social media stars and large hauls of products seem to be the norm.

What’s so bad about treating yourself to nice lipstick?

Nothing, in a vacuum. But the sheer volume of social media accounts promoting the overconsumption of makeup, clothing, tech gear and other consumables carries genuine risks. By one estimate, the fashion industry is responsible for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. With their ingredients typically derived from fossil fuels, the manufacture of cosmetics generates chemical waste. Only 20% of electronic waste gets recycled globally.

Then there is the psycho-social impact: We end up stuck on a treadmill of consumption, working more so we can spend more, always feeling we need the latest style or device to be successful.

Can deinfluencers really stop overconsumption? On their own, of course not. And it’s true that many deinfluencers aren’t really trying — for every video discouraging one product, they have several promoting alternatives. For this reason, many environmentalists and industry critics worry that deinfluencing is just the newer, trendier version of influencing, asking us not to consume less — just differently.

But at least some deinfluencers are going further: They speak thoughtfully on the financial and emotional stress of keeping up with the latest social media trends, and they offer helpful pointers on how to buy less and live more sustainably. We could all use a little more of that in our feeds.

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