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The Emergence of TikTok and Its Influence on The Environment

Are the latest trends sustainable?

With TikTok’s extremely fast emergence as one of the world’s leading social media platforms, the content and creators featured on the app have gained a very prominent grasp on today’s youth and their consumerism. This has been achieved through the inner workings of the app’s algorithm which works very closely to cater to each and every viewer to lead to a more customized, smoother scrolling experience for the user. With how the algorithm is crafted, TikTok users’ interests and hobbies continuously pop up on their “For You Page”, and in tandem with this, products─whether they are clothing, makeup or gadgets─are placed in sight of thousands of consumers most likely willing to buy them. TikTok practically does the shopping for you: choosing items that seem to be up your alley through using information on who you follow, what videos you like and links that you click.

This ease in shopping has led to a humongous wave of “microtrends” that have begun to take over the mainstream fashion scene. The concept of “microtrends,” clothing or products that rise rapidly in popularity and then fall even faster, is undoubtedly a product of social media, with TikTok being at the forefront of all platforms.

Despite how cute these fast trends might be, it’s taking a toll on something considerably more important in the grand scheme of things than updating your closet: the environment. Viral microtrends are able to become so popular because they are produced by vendors on Etsy, SHEIN, Amazon, as well as others for a very cheap price tag. The problem, though, is that these companies do not promote or promise any type of sustainability in the mass production of these products that more prominent companies can. The extremely fast nature of these trend cycles means that the faster the fashion cycle, the more waste is produced that heads straight to landfills. Once the popularity of a trendy item dies down, people begin to discard them and never look back. This has led to an extremely devastating impact on the environment; waste is being produced considerably faster than it was ten, fifteen years ago simply due to the emergence of fast fashion and the implications of social media, especially TikTok.

So, the next time you find yourself scrolling on Instagram or TikTok and in the process of being persuaded to buy something extremely trendy, think about the planet. Think about the impact you, as a consumer, can have on this environment simply through a credit card transaction. 

Maddy Adler

Wisconsin '24

Hello! My name is Maddy and I'm a staff writer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Political Science. I love cooking, making art, and reading.
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