If we want sustainable fashion, should we boycott Instagram?

Sustainability has recently become a hugely discussed topic, especially on social media. Everyday, there are more resources and information about how to save our planet being shared online. But for now, let’s focus on Instagram. As a platform on which numerous clothing brands and influencers promote their businesses, it is important to acknowledge that, while Instagram isn’t to blame, it definitely ensures that advertisement encourages its users to continue to buy products.

Instagram influencers rely on their followers’ use of their discount codes to sell a range of products, especially clothing. All those ex-Love Islanders receive deals from places like Pretty Little Thing, BooHoo and Misguided. All fast fashion businesses. These brands are made cheap, so people are encouraged to buy in bulk rather than one item at a time. I might be wrong but I have never seen a single Love Islander promote a slow fashion or sustainable brand.

The very nature of their income relies on them encouraging people to continue to buy from fast fashion companies. Every single post they will be wearing something different because imagine the shame if they were to wear the same outfit twice. Molly-Mae is always linking and tagging her posts to the brands that she wears so her four million followers are encouraged to continue to buy from that brand. This isn’t about hypocrisy; many influencers on Instagram keep pretty quiet about climate change and how fast fashion is destroying the planet. It is about accountability and it is something that I’ve actually never seen on the app. I’ve read plenty of posts discussing how fast fashion is bad, yet I’ve never seen anyone bring up how Instagram and its influencers still encourage high amount of consumerism when it comes to fashion.

Perhaps the issue is perpetuated by this idea that we feel the need to constantly be buying into the latest, newest, coolest trend. When actually we should be encouraging people to consume less. Items of clothing can last a very long time, yet some people won’t even wear something once after buying it. It will sit in the back of their wardrobe for a while until they throw away because it does not suit the current fashion trends. And so yet again, another item of clothing sits on a rotting rubbish site further contributing to the planet’s slow and inevitable destruction.

As users of Instagram, we can’t avoid being bombarded with adverts; that’s just social media. Scrolling through my feed, I noticed that every third post is sponsored. Swiping through my stories, every third story is an AD. Coupled with this is how many celebrities and influencers post advertisements and sponsorships themselves most of the time. Pretty much every third post is an AD encouraging people to buy something.

When I began this opinion piece, I stated that Instagram is not entirely to blame; now, after writing this article, I believe it is. How can we possibly begin to shop sustainably if we are constantly encouraged to buy products? The majority of the posts and stories I see are all trying to get me to buy something, and I see less and less of my friends on the app. Instagram has changed its algorithm so that users are pushed towards advertisements rather than engaging with friends and families which is what it was originally designed for. Every time I use Instagram, I am more and more deterred by it. At least with television advertisements there was an escapism, and they were on less time than the programmes itself. On social media, there is no escape.

It might seem as though sustainability might becoming more popular, and there is more knowledge about how people can save the planet. Yet, there is still a massive counter attack on it being perpetuated by Instagram and its influencers where people are encouraged to consume more than ever before.

Photo courtesy of NeonBrand

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