Nov. 30, 2023
By: Elva Lei
How easily influenced do you think you are? Have you ever scrolled through TikTok or Instagram, watching influencers encourage you to spend money on a product they claim to be a “must-have item”? The reality is that many of these products fall short of the expectations set forth in their promotions. This is when deinfluencers — individuals on social media platforms who discourage their audience from buying products — enter the scene. They take on the role of product skeptics, giving you the lowdown on trending items that are not worth the hype.
Courtesy of Tiktok
In the world of social media marketing, TikTok has taken the stage with its engaging content and active user base. With the platform’s short-form videos, algorithm-driven content, and influencer collaborations, brands can effectively market new products to a broader audience. However, while brands can certainly purchase reach, they cannot buy engagement without authenticity.
Part of the challenge stems from users becoming desensitized to influencer marketing. Nowadays, having an Instagram or TikTok account can turn anyone into an influencer, promoting and selling products. However, here's the catch – people are getting tired of it. Customers, especially those in Gen Z, are becoming aware that items promoted on an influencer’s page are either gifted to them or sponsored. When influencers consistently post one paid partnership after another, their followers catch on and start questioning how they can genuinely endorse every product being promoted.
On top of this, influencers who collaborate with these brands often fake their true feelings about specific products or may even misrepresent them. This lack of transparency can be attributed to influencers either being compensated by brands to express positive sentiments about their products or fearing the potential loss of future sponsorships if they provide honest feedback. For example, Mikayla Nogueria, a makeup influencer, created a paid partnership video with the viral L’Oréal Paris Telescopic Lift mascara. In the video, she demonstrates how to use the product, and by the end, her lashes appear visibly longer. Nogueria says, “This looks like false lashes, how, what?” However, the audience was not convinced. Almost immediately, the video drew criticism from fans who were convinced that she was wearing fake eyelashes. This example underscores the challenge of distinguishing genuine product experience from influencer content, where financial incentives can blur the line between authentic endorsement and promotional acts.
Problems of Overconsumption
The emergence of deinfluencing serves as a response to combat overconsumption fueled by influencer marketing. Triggers to overconsumption are everywhere, ranging from ads on Instagram stories to influencers portraying a lifestyle that seems incomplete without the latest gadgets, fashion, or skincare products. The pressure to keep up with these trends often leads to impulsive purchases, and before we know it, our lives are cluttered with items that may not have been necessary.
Overconsumption leaves a trail of environmental, social, and personal consequences. When we consume more than necessary, manufacturers go into overdrive to meet demand. This entails extracting more raw materials for something that will ultimately go to waste. The more we buy, the more we throw out. According to research done by Earth.Org, an estimated 15% of fabric used in garment manufacturing ends up as waste, and post-production, around 60% of the approximately 150 million garments produced globally are discarded. In addition, the United States generates about 287 pounds of plastic waste per person. On a societal level, overconsumption leads to a social divide. Not everyone has equal access to the newest trending items, yet these material possessions become the markers of status. Although this is not a new phenomenon, the influence of consumer culture only widens the gap between the affluent and the less privileged. For example, limited edition shoes released by Nike are difficult to acquire but also have significantly higher resale prices. This makes the shoes a luxury commodity accessible only to those who are able to afford them, perpetuating the notion that the wealthy have the ability to stay ahead of trends. Those who are unable to get their hands on the original retail sneakers are at a much greater disadvantage when it comes to inflated prices in the resale market and, as a result, are excluded from the trend. There is a visible line between those who have the money to acquire trendy items and those who do not. Unfortunately, it gives the impression that your status in society depends on whether or not you can afford these items.
On a personal level, it may be obvious that splurging on more items would impact your finances. However, the less obvious consequence is that the more you buy, the less satisfied you might actually be. Sure, getting new items provides a brief sense of happiness. But before you know it, you find yourself stuck in this loop, constantly on the hunt for the next purchase, believing it will be the key to happiness. It's like this never-ending cycle of chasing happiness through buying items without really figuring out what you truly need for a satisfying life.
The Importance of Deinfluencing
Deinfluencing is like hitting the pause button, urging us to reconsider before making an impulse purchase. The reviews and insights provided by deinfluencers help us make informed decisions grounded in experience rather than getting caught up in marketing gimmicks. In a way, it gives us a sense of control over our purchasing choices.
Search Results of “Deinfluencing”, Courtesy of Tiktok
There are two types of deinfluencers:
The Pragmatists: These influencers acknowledge that people will still make purchases but use this understanding to underscore the importance of making intentional and informed choices. Their content suggests alternatives to trendy products and emphasizes the importance of prioritizing quality over quantity.
The Cultural Critics: These influencers use their platforms to reflect on how social media shapes our perception of normal consumption habits. Rather than solely focusing on product recommendations, they delve into the broader implications of excessive consumption and challenge the norms of social media.
Accounts like @livekindly on TikTok are a mixture of both types. Not only does she provide practical reasons to resist the urge to buy unnecessary products and stick to what you already own, but she also offers tips to live a more sustainable lifestyle. For example, in one of her most viewed videos, she critiques the idea of splurging on a viral Christmas candle, pointing out that the one who purchases it “probably won’t even burn it,” leaving it to collect dust. Instead, she suggests thrifting a Christmas tree figurine for the same festive vibe. Accounts like these offer a two-in-one deal: you get advice on what not to buy, and you also get tips on how to make choices that are better for the planet.
Deinfluencing video by @livekindly, Courtesy of Tiktok
What’s the difference?
You might be wondering, aren't deinfluencers essentially just influencers with a different name, especially if they're promoting alternative products? While the core elements of social media presence, engagement, and community-building remain similar, the key difference lies in the message. While influencers aim to persuade followers to buy and adopt certain lifestyles, deinfluencers challenge the norms of consumerism. What’s important here is that the conversation sparked by deinfluencing is making a noticeable change in the way people think. Rather than the usual “Oh my god, I need this product” mindset, people are now shifting to a more thoughtful “Do I really need this?” approach.
This shift towards more conscious and intentional consumer behavior is crucial for businesses. The fact that more consumers are now prioritizing quality and sustainable products means that brands need to reevaluate their marketing strategies. Recognizing that influencer ads often lack authenticity due to financial incentives, brands need to rethink their approach and create meaningful and authentic content to foster genuine connections with consumers. This journey begins with the fundamental step of producing a quality product, acknowledging that authenticity is not just in the message but also in the substance of what a brand offers.
At the end of the day, how you spend your money is your choice. So, whether you want to follow the latest trends or take a detour into mindful shopping, it’s your call. Deinfluencing is just the voice in the back of your mind saying, “Hey, think for a second before you hit the ‘buy’ button.” It’s not about banning shopping sprees; it’s about making those shopping sprees count.
Elva Lei is a junior studying economics and business studies. She is passionate about social media trends, makeup, and finding good eats around NYC.