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The Cider Press

The Cider Press

The Cider Press

The Big Bad Consumer: An Opinion Piece on Materialism

In a world where possessions have become the ultimate measure of success and fulfillment, many have become numb to the repetitive nature of unnecessary purchases. The signals in our brains light as we find ourselves fascinated with a particular item, to the point where some cannot go on with their day without caving in and purchasing a product.

Online shopping has revolutionized how society behaves with their wallets; now more than ever, the typical American spends over 200 dollars a month on unnecessary expenses typically triggered by the societal pressure to keep up with trends. Trend-setting and following remains one of the biggest waste creators in America; fast fashion being an exceptional example.

Although the constant pressure to keep up with what is popular has always been consistent, TikTok, in particular, has become a billion-dollar industry. Warping the perception of the buyer, feeding them a narrative through paid promotions, has resulted in buyers purchasing unnecessary product(s); as a result, creating a constant cycle of highs and lows associated with the temporary dopamine spike buying a product provides. This becomes addictive to most, especially the underdeveloped mind of teens. Consumerism, with its seductive allure, ultimately promises happiness but instead has permeated every aspect of our lives, shaping our identities and defining our worth by the things we own. This is prevalent now more than ever with the rise of social media over in-person interactions, mainly targeting the younger generation.

It has been concluded that an adolescent’s brain is more likely to believe falsehoods presented in fashionable colors; thus, this makes marketers inclined to relate to the younger audience via whatever is popular with influencers and trendy flairs. In a world fueled by consumerism, influencers have emerged as modern-day catalysts, perpetuating a cycle of excessive consumption that takes a toll on our environment with every carefully curated post and product endorsement. This is problematic for a multitude of reasons, one being the waste creation that overproduction can lead to.

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The constant consumption of material goods is one of the main drivers of the climate crisis. The production, transportation, and consumption of goods require energy and resources, which produce greenhouse gases and other pollutants that affect the environment and those living in specific areas. One such instance of an adverse environmental effect fueled by materialistic greed is the fashion industry. Many trends seen today are often unpopular in weeks; fast fashion industries often make cheap, unethically made clothing rapidly to keep up with the trends. The fashion industry is estimated to produce 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions, being one of the biggest polluters in the world.

Fast fashion is also synonymous with the exploitation of workers in foreign countries; cutting costs with clothing typically comes at the quality and the worker’s expense. At the cost of many workers in other countries, safety measures and fair payment are often lackluster in the fast fashion market. Underpaid workers in sweatshops are legally allowed to continue through legal loopholes, mainly in China and Bangladesh, where cheap clothes are distributed and produced at the highest rates.

Most of these clothes, due to their poor quality, end up in landfills; landfills are the most common waste management, creating large piles of trash in low-income rural areas to dump the occupants’s waste, creating an environmental disaster near many people’s homes; typically, minorities and POC are more likely out of the general populous to live near landfills and other waste management centers and facilities, at the expense of many families having to experience deteriorating neighborhoods and communities.

Although most can agree that consuming quantities of items to feel adequate to one’s living situation is rooted in insecurity, that is still no excuse when considering the impact of materialistic individuals on the environment and others; as a result, one is left to ponder what exactly change would look like in a modern-day materialistic America, or if it’s even plausible, filled mainly by greed-driven individuals, who, intentionally or not, manifest themselves to sooner or later become The Big Bad Consumer.

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