How social media’s consumer culture is fueling the climate crisis – Manila Bulletin

For better or worse, online shopping and social media usage has exploded since the pandemic began. Compounded by social isolation and the monotony it brings, what used to be considered a luxury is now the norm: buying products and goods, from the most basic to the most frivolous, is within reach.

According to the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in his book consume life, consumerist culture values ​​individualism, the ephemeral in duration, reinvention and the ability to acquire things quickly. Thanks to social media, this culture of haste has imposed itself on us and permeated our daily lives. Whether it’s ads on our feeds or highly-following influencers, the masses of media and online personalities are almost always trying to sell us something, whether it’s a product, a feeling or lifestyle. Often we have to buy something to satisfy this longing.

Online shopping allows consumers to purchase goods or services directly from a seller over the Internet using a web browser or mobile application. Due to social distancing, people have turned to online shopping more than ever. (Pexels)

The breakneck speed of social media is driving brands, influencers and consumers to follow the trend to stay relevant, driving the promotion and purchase of fashion, food, home decor and mobile electronics at a unprecedented pace. This consumer mania has manifested itself in seemingly innocuous transport videos – especially from fast fashion brands – and in flex culture, a way of showing purchases that indicate an abundance of wealth.

On an alarming note, major e-commerce companies are not only offering the usual seasonal sales for the holidays, but are now commonly seen promoting monthly sales in hopes of beating the competition and achieving higher goals. . Combine these ubiquitous (and hugely tempting) sales with our need for instant gratification, and you have a recipe for climate disaster.

Some studies show that e-commerce produces less carbon dioxide emissions than traditional shopping, but what is better for the environment is not entirely clear, especially when factors such as consumer behavior , logistics and waste are not ignored. for. With the material-centric consumer culture of social media, this idea that shopping online is vastly more environmentally friendly seems unlikely.

The speed and frequency of online shopping produces a phenomenal volume of plastic packaging waste that ends up in our oceans and landfills. Purchases from different fulfillment centers, purchases from more remote locations, and instances such as missed deliveries and returns result in increased green gas emissions per purchase. Due to the overconsumption induced by social media, these negative environmental impacts will only worsen if this business as usual scenario is maintained.

Plastic is the most commonly used packaging material for online shopping due to its low cost, durability and light weight. Although plastics offer a number of benefits, they have a large carbon footprint of production, can take thousands of years to fully degrade and pollute the environment. (Pexels)

Although shopping online is convenient for a multitude of reasons, there has to be a fine line between what is necessary and what is excessive. Since e-commerce provides jobs for people and is the safest way to do business in this pandemic, it should be noted that this is a complex issue when it comes to sustainable living. The burden rests on all of us, although to varying degrees. Businesses must foster more sustainable practices while consumers are empowered to make conscious purchases that are less damaging to the environment.

While it’s productive to pressure vendors to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly, it’s also important to challenge the systems in place. Rather than shaming individuals who are most likely trying to make a living, we should all be supporting green practices and policies and empowering sustainable businesses so their competition will follow.

To stop fueling this system of overconsumption, I believe there needs to be more green jobs, more sustainable policies, and a fairer distribution of wealth. If green jobs are much more accessible and basic needs are met, would vendors still resort to exploitative and unsustainable means of earning a living? From career choices to purchasing decisions, I believe people would adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyles given the chance, greed, materialism and ignorance aside.

While most of the burden falls on policymakers and businesses, consumers also have the power to make smart buying decisions, like choosing to buy less, locally and for longevity. (Pexels)

Although this consumer culture has seeped into our daily lives, we have the power to educate ourselves and be more aware of our purchasing decisions. Beware of what you usually see online and adopt perspectives that are good for us and for the environment.

Buy less, choose wisely and make your purchases last. Be intentional with who you follow online, support local and eco-friendly businesses, and do what you can to demand brands for more sustainable alternatives. Focus on how you feel in your life rather than how it looks online, where people feel they have to constantly prove their status and identity through endless avoidable purchases.

Online shopping is here to stay, but what we can do is be more mindful of our lifestyle choices. Let us not be carelessly swayed by the demands of a consumerist culture, for they are not in favor of the health of the planet, and therefore not in our favor.

About the Author

Danna Peña is a writer, editor, and social media professional passionate about mindful living, sustainability, and purposeful storytelling. She has written over 90 articles for various local publications and has worked with advertising agencies, news publication and e-commerce brands throughout her career. In 2020 she was selected to be a Southeast Asia Journalism Fellow for Climate Tracker, and in 2021 she completed the global virtual training led by former US Vice President Al Gore and became a Certified Leader. climate reality.

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