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  • Writer's pictureMatilde Pozzato

Social Media, Materialism, and Fake Needs

Updated: Feb 19

A recent psychology study shows that social media can make people more materialistic and less happy with the life they have.

On social media, people tend to compare themselves, their lives, and their belongings with those of others. This comparison does not only take place between people who know each other in real life but also, and maybe more, with famous people and influencers. In the last two cases, the life shown on social media is unattainable for the average person because famous people have more means while influencers are marketing actors paid to make social media users desire what they advertise.

While the study shows that social media are especially dangerous for people who already have materialistic natures, it warns everyone to be wary of the time spent on those platforms.

Primark in Groningen © Matilde Pozzato

“If you follow influencers, you will be influenced,” says Arianna (22) a Master's student who runs a small Instagram page where she shares her thoughts and posts shopping haul in her stories. It’s inevitable to be on social media and not run into videos or posts titled “5 Things You Must Have” or “7 Amazon Finds That Will Change Your Life.” Arianna explains how she once showed in her stories a pack of reusable makeup remover sponges and multiple people messaged her to know where she got them from.

“I think I follow trends without even noticing it,” says Kate (22), a Bachelor student who checks out Zara in every city she visits. Fast fashion brands replicate trends from high fashion runaways at a cheaper price and when you shop there, you have already fallen trap of marketing. “Sometimes I see what I bought on social media after I already bought it,” continues Kate. 

“You want those things because you want to feel included,” continues Arianna, “and when the influencer doesn’t use it anymore, you throw it out.” TikTok’s algorithm makes it particularly easy to be swept up in trends, which pushes people to want more things, increasing materialism, consumerism, and fast fashion.

TikTok screenshot © Matilde Pozzato

“Even more than objects, I want the experiences I see on social media,” explains Kate. She was in Barcelona last month and she says that as soon as she booked the trip, she went on TikTok to see what were the cool spots to visit.

“I am sad when I see people my age doing something I am not,” says Arianna. It makes her feel like she hasn’t accomplished anything in life. Suddenly, all the things she has done are not cool enough compared to what she sees on social media.

Social media offer neverending entertainment. If something is boring you on TikTok you can go to Instagram. When Instagram becomes boring, you can go to YouTube, and so on. It’s easy to lose track of time when switching platforms and before you realize it, hours have gone by and you are left with fake needs for things you don’t need.

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