In this day and age, there is a social media app for everyone. Whether you prefer looking at what’s new in fashion, want to screenshot delicious recipes or keep up to date with your favorite content creators and celebrities, there is no shortage of interactive and accessible mediums. At times, social media can be abused and manipulated to encourage viewers to trust what creators are selling. TikTok is the newest social media platform to promote a specific way of life through excessive spending.
While slightly newer than other popular apps like Instagram or Twitter, TikTok experienced a surge in popularity amid the pandemic for teens and adults alike, reaching millions of viewers through short videos ranging from choreographed clips to heartwarming reunions. It provided a needed escape during the pandemic for those who required a distraction or felt inspired to create something fun.
However, like social media tends to do, TikTok has taken a predictable dive toward romanticizing an idealized lifestyle which revolves around unnecessary spending and unhealthy expectations of what one’s life should look like. Something common across social media is the idea of content creators pushing things that they are “obsessed” with. Beauty gurus on YouTube will create videos about their beauty favorites, Instagram models will promote their favorite outfits and accessories and TikTok creators promote beauty items, health tips and unnecessary kitchen items from Amazon in short, attention-grabbing clips.
Of course, one could argue that all of these apps promote unhealthy beauty standards and lifestyles. But TikTok is the most recent app to encourage buying whatever others are loving, which are mostly items people do not need, but feel like they do. It could be a rose gold alarm clock to replace the not-as-cute, but still durable, clock you already owned, or a kitchen appliance that can do the same job as your hands, which are free. This movement is known under the hashtag and title, “TikTok made me buy it.” Quick but addicting videos draw in viewers who want to see what is trending and subsequently encourages those same viewers to buy whatever is being praised and promoted. The infinite scroll of TikTok videos allow viewers to view video after video of creators praising specific items and successfully persuading the viewer to pull out their credit card and get involved.
At the core of this movement of excessive spending is the incessant need to buy and have, regardless of an item’s worth or use, also known as materialism.
During a time when money is tight for many people, TikTok creators have implemented a theme of needing new kitchen gadgets when their previous ones were perfectly acceptable, new furniture to replace or embellish the furniture you already have or raved-about makeup products that claim to have the best effect on the skin — when people were not leaving their houses during the pandemic and therefore had no need for makeup. Not only did people not need to spend precious money on such items, but they were perfectly happy before they discovered a particular video pushing cute bedroom decor they feel they need because it’s floating around TikTok. These are materialistic items that make the buyers feel like they gained something through their purchase, but the feeling is fleeting as another video with another promoted item comes along — and because these items are mostly obtained from Amazon, they would be considered “affordable” and worth the money.
Affordable is relative, but for many Amazon lovers across TikTok, various items ranging from $20 to more than $100 can be worth your money. Things you need, things that will change your life, things you didn’t know you needed and the list goes on. This is a convincing strategy, as according to a 2019 survey, 49 percent of millennials claim social media influenced them to spend money, following a survey from the year prior that said 57 percent of millennials admitted to being persuaded by social media into making unplanned purchases. TikTok and most social media platforms advertise ordinary items as if they are made of gold, which is a clever marketing strategy for the companies selling these items, as well as the content creators who gain more followers by the day for promoting excessive spending.
The reason this incessant promotion is dangerous is because it can include unhealthy items, like weight loss products that doctors on the app later passionately debunk, as well as unhealthy lifestyles revolving around spending money on cute gadgets with no deeper emotional value. People are drawn to attractive houses and lifestyles, which opens the door for a new round of content creators to spend and advertise — and since we have a natural inclination toward online shopping, especially because of the pandemic, the inevitable spiral of watching and spending ensues, therefore emulating the unhealthy mindset of needing to buy whatever is being praised.
Thus, this way of advertising to the masses by claiming such items will change your life exemplifies peer pressure. A side effect to social media is the tendency for people to compare their lives to strangers they see online, and subsequently envying them. In reality, this excessive spending convinces people they need to stay in the loop with what’s trending, only to be left with the same urge to spend more money on more items that will give them temporary satisfaction. This isn’t a happy, fulfilling existence. It’s a momentary, materialistic experience that will only result in people convincing themselves they’re happy and starting the cycle over again.
Nechama Chabus is a senior majoring in English.