Some videos about deinfluencing have millions of views. (Image: Midjourney)
Influencing people to buy things is not new. Whether it’s on Instagram or TikTok, for as long as social media has existed, there have been people who are paid to get other people to buy things.
In a way, it’s a circular economy; a brand gives an influencer like Molly-Mae Hague money to promote them and, because her followers trust what she’s advertising, they spend money on the brand. Rinse and repeat, ad infinitum.
But times may be changing with a trend on TikTok that focuses on “de-influencing”, offering a critique of overconsumption while helping people save money. We are in a cost of living crisis after all.
“Not only are we buying too much, but we are buying things we do not love, shopping with a buy-and-wear-once approach. Influencers are a key marketing strategy for many brands, training us consumers to constantly crave new wardrobe updates.”
Much of this waste, which is made out of plastic or synthetic materials that require fossil fuels to create, ends up in landfill and further contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Some of the de-influencing videos on TikTok have highlighted the issue with buying things you don’t need and then throwing them away, with the hashtag quickly gaining popularity as more and more people jumped on the trend and told people what not to buy.
“I’m trying to cut back on my overconsumption, and you probably should too,” one user says in a video that received nearly two million views, going on to question why people buy “25 different perfumes”, Ugg boots, and expensive skincare products.
“Don’t buy these, you don’t need them,” she adds.
Another says TikTok has made people think overconsumption seems normal. She says: “There’s nothing fun, there’s nothing sexy, there’s nothing alluring… about over-consuming and having your life and your environment cluttered in a mess and piling up with stuff you don’t even use.”
But, the videos focusing exclusively on overconsumption are no longer taking centre stage on the #deinfluencing page, as the trend has been hijacked by people – some of whom identify as influencers themselves – who want to suggest alternatives and “dupes” for viral products that are usually promoted on TikTok.
A quick scroll through the #deinfluencing tag on TikTok shows that many de-influencing videos, which are receiving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views, are continuing to encourage viewers to spend their money and buy the latest makeup, fashion, skincare, or hair care product that will “change their life” while paying lip service to the idea of reducing consumption.
The notion that such videos are missing the point of de-influencing in the first place has not been overlooked by some.
One TikTok user posted a video criticising the trend, saying: “The reason why I hate the de-influencing trend is because you guys are doing it wrong. You’re contradicting yourselves by de-influencing one product while hyping up another. That’s even worse.”
However, her video has received only 20,000 views – a fraction of the views other videos are getting which suggests substitutes.
Another user’s video told people they “don’t need to buy” an expensive makeup product but, equally, they “don’t need to buy a bunch of shitty dupes”.
“I know a lot of people out there want to find dupes because it’s what they can afford (I’ve been there!), but ultimately do you need it? Otherwise look at what you already have, and know that you definitely don’t need that extra product you may barely reach for. Shopping for dupes actually only furthers this unhealthy desire of overconsumption,” she added in the caption of her video.
Woods said the “microtrends” being pushed by influencers is “contributing to the climate emergency in a major way” by encouraging people to buy more and more.
“True de-influencing would be encouraging people to do this but the very misleading name is sadly only contributing to overconsumption,” she added.
People on Twitter have also begun to criticise the de-influencing trend, highlighting that it isn’t what it seems. One person tweeted: “The real de-influencing isn’t saying ‘Buy this over this’, it’s saying ‘Hey you already have a working version of this product and don’t need to buy more of it’ because WHO NEEDS 10 FOUNDATIONS?!! you have one face!!”
Another wrote: “Absolutely hate the way the de-influencing discussion on tiktok turned into a what to buy and what not to buy like that’s not just another form of influencer videos.”
A third said that the “most sustainable clothing/makeup/skin care routine” you can have is “to use up what you already own”, encouraging people to be wary of throwing something out “because someone else said it wasn’t worth it”.
Tutton agreed: “The most sustainable garment is the one you already own; the second most sustainable garment is one that someone else already owns.”
She recommended checking charity shops to see if what you want has been made and discarded before or going on social media to seek out swap groups “if you absolutely need a new item”.
“By buying second hand you’re preventing waste and reusing existing materials, which is better for the environment overall,” Tutton added.
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