Welcome back to Conversations with Karla! In case you missed it, last week we talked about the spread of misinformation through social media. This week, we will meet Kallista Berner, a third-semester pre-teaching major and history minor, to talk about the control social media has over our wallets.
Berner took us back to the COVID-19 pandemic, which she described as the time that TikTok influencers truly started to make their appearance. As many are aware, social media influencers make most of their profits from brand deals, which involves making content about products that companies send them, hyping them up and convincing their viewers to buy them.
This pattern of activity skyrocketed during the pandemic according to Berner. “I felt a constant need to buy stuff. It felt like I didn’t have what I ‘needed’ to have; I didn’t have the right shoes or the right skin care. Every video I watched showed a new thing I ‘needed’ to buy.”
Berner has deleted TikTok since the pandemic and shared that she feels less pressure to buy products that influencers promote simply because she doesn’t see them as often. She also explained that watching videos of influencers promoting products only had a minor effect on her self-image, but a major impact on her spending habits.
While this is a fortunate circumstance for Berner, it is not always the case for social media users. It seems that every week there is a new “it” product, and if you don’t have that product, you’re off-trend — that doesn’t sound very good to anyone. Trends regarding aesthetics have also come about in recent years. Currently, social media is obsessed with the “clean girl” look, but to achieve that look you need a specific makeup routine to get that glowy finish. Additionally, the aesthetic is thought to look the best on clear skin, which isn’t always achievable for people with acne-prone skin. To add to the dilemma, most of these makeup and skincare products are outrageously priced, excluding even more people from participating in the trend.
This likely sounds like a ridiculous thing to worry about for the average college student; however, if you look at it through the lens of a pre-teen or even adolescent, it is a bigger deal, as those are the ages where other people’s opinions of you take a greater toll.
Berner connects this feeling back to her pandemic-era behavior on social media. “During the pandemic, I feel like I was more aware of what I posted,” she said. “I used Instagram and TikTok more so I started comparing myself to other girls and influencers more.”
In today’s social media landscape, Berner has noticed more people participating in the “de-influencing” trend and putting less emphasis on the need to buy new products. Nonetheless, Berner notes that social media influencers are contributing a lot to consumerism. She said, “Once I put that into perspective, I started to think about ‘How badly do I really need that must-have top from Amazon or that brand new skin product? Is it really necessary?’”
Our conversation ended with Berner emphasizing that “We as a society need to stop allowing ourselves to be so easily influenced and feeding into consumerism when it’s not even worth it.” This is important not only for the sake of your wallet but also for the environment. We have all heard of the crisis our planet is facing, and influencing people to buy products won’t help it get any better.
That’s all for this week’s Conversations with Karla! Remember that you’re loved. See you next week when we’ll be discussing a new social media topic.