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How Social Media Affects The Way We Shop

The 10-year challenge was a little over two months ago, and two things stood out: the quality of digital and phone cameras have increased by milestones, and so has our personal style and fashion.

The past decade’s technological advancements helped put highly-affordable, high-quality smartphones in the palm of our hands, and undoubtedly influenced the creation of an always-on social media world. And in a world where we’re expected to be camera-ready at all times, to be snapped and posted for the rest of the world to see, comment, and share, it’s small wonder that we’ve improved leaps and bounds in our fashion and makeup.

But have we ever taken a step back and realised just how (and how much!) always-on social media has altered the way we buy, the reasons we buy, and how much we buy? Think of the last time you shopped for clothing – in-store or online. What was your first thought when an item caught your eye?

“Ooh this will look good on Instagram!”
“Okay I can post this for my CNY ootd”
“Looks like I can upload a new profile picture soon”

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Dressing for likes: Shopping in a time of always-on social media

Chances are, you thought of at least a variant of one of the above. The reality is every time we go shopping, or window shopping, or simply browsing online, always-on social media hangs above our every purchase decision with the question “Will it look good on social media?”

But what’s so bad about this? For one, we end up buying things just for social media. Just so we can snap and post it up on Instagram – for the double taps, the likes, the Ooooh love your outfit!” comments. Secondly, once that outfit’s been posted, that’s that. It’s done, dusted, it’s had its 50 likes of fame, into the closet it goes! So we may find ourselves constantly on the lookout for the next new item or outfit, just to avoid repeating and recycling your outfits for everyone on Instagram to see!

Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to share feeling confident in new outfits or constantly refresh our personal styles. But letting will it look good on Instagram become the sole, driving factor in our purchase decisions may mean we end up with a wardrobe filled with stuff worn only once because: 1) we wouldn’t want to post the same outfit twice, and 2); we bought it without really wanting or liking it in the first place – we got it just for the ‘gram.

If social media is causing us to have such bad purchasing habits, shouldn’t we just shut down all our accounts and delete the apps off our phones for good?! Sure, if that’s your style, but – you don’t have to.

Yes, always-on social media has altered the reasons why we dress, and through that, how, what, and why we shop. Its nature has contributed to a new form of unchecked, impulse-buying with little thought. But it is this very same feature that has enabled creativity and knowledge to flow like never before – providing a platform for small businesses, local brands, and ethical businesses to grow and thrive, creating a space where real consumers can share their most honest reviews and not have them filtered. It’s above all a medium that allows us to be resourceful – on our terms – and it’s up to us to harness the full potential it has to offer.

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Of course, no one’s saying you’ll have to alter your lifestyle completely and give up shopping or your love for updating your social media. When we treat social media as an avenue for us to seek out creativity, to share that creativity with others, we start to regain ownership of the platform. We get to decide how we want to use it.

Remember, social media platforms are also where minimalists thrive, and a simple Google search will lead you down a (wholesome) rabbit hole of minimalist fashion, capsule wardrobe, and innovative styling. So try this the next time you see an outfit you like. Before you hastily purchase it, ask yourself first:

Am I buying it just for my social postings? If yes, can I find inspiration online on how to dress up my current outfits or style them differently instead? This way, you’d still be able to shop and keep your Instagram game strong – but at little to no cost to both our bank accounts and our planet.

So, why does it matter? Well, always-on social media, by the looks of it, is here to stay. Which is why it’s so important that we learn to use it to our advantage. To make sure we have agency when using it. Not just to paint perfectly-curated versions of ourselves with little thought for anything else, but as a place that inspires, is inspired, and values the wellbeing and interests of communities, the environment, and above all, ourselves.


June Adelyn is a full-time Copywriter based in KL. A certified and recognised cat lady, she’s the last of Millennials who still enjoys broadcast satellite TV and shooting on film. Find her on Instagram here.

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