Social media and Fast Fashion

The Neurological effects of fast fashion

While you're scrolling through Instagram, you may notice that there is an influx of influencers who showcase their high-end life and their expensive trendy outfits. In order to keep up with fast-paced trends, many people buy 'in fashion' clothes for really cheap prices, and this cycle repeats for a majority of ever-changing fashion trends. Unfortunately, buying clothes for really cheap prices makes people happy. This causes more fast-fashion purchases to occur, which hurts workers and the environment.

According to the Atlantic article The Neurological pleasures of fast fashion, "The researchers then showed the subject the item’s price. The medial prefrontal cortex weighed the decision, as the insula, which processes pain, reacted to the cost. Deciding whether to buy put the brain, as the study put it, in a “hedonic competition between the immediate pleasure of acquisition and an equally immediate pain of paying.” The mindset is in line with evidence that shows happiness in shopping comes from the pursuit of goods—from the sensation of wanting something. While pleasure kicks in just from the act of looking, there’s also pleasure in purchasing, or more specifically, in getting a bargain."

Essentially, buying fast fashion, especially for great prices, triggers something called transactional utility. Buying really cute clothes for really cheap prices prompts feelings of joy. Fast fashion fuels this process over and over again.

In addition to this, social media can make us feel as if we need to stay in trends or we need to follow the footsteps of influencers. Because social media isn't necessarily real life, reality can become distorted, and we can forget that Instagram posts that showcase certain lifestyles or trends can be heavily edited and otherwise entirely fabricated.

An article by HuffPost titled, How Instagram Influencers Fuel Our Destructive Addiction To Fast Fashion, states "The problem with this average, according to Wagstaff, is that all the images you’re exposed to on social media are highly curated and edited — even no filter, no makeup shots are selected — meaning that the “average” that your brain creates is not a true representation of someone’s lifestyle, attractiveness or income.

“If you’re constantly being presented with false information or information that is biased, then your schema [a cognitive representation of your sense of self, other people and products] is biased. It doesn’t represent the real world,” Wagstaff said.

At this point, we become susceptible to good old-fashioned FOMO (fear of missing out). It can seem perfectly reasonable to need 12 bikini options for a weekend vacation or put long-haul flights to Bali on a credit card to get some good shots for Insta."

Social media makes it seem like the grass is greener on the other side.

Extremely affordable clothing makes it seem like the greener side is actually attainable.

The effects of fast fashion on people and the environment

Fast fashion is exactly what it sounds like; clothes that are made quickly and are cheap in quality and material. After trends die out, many of these clothes are relocated to thrift stores or thrown out. The truth is, fast fashion isn't quite sustainable. The problem also is that sustainable brands feel out of reach for the majority of consumers.

Fast fashion has a terrible effect on the environment. According to, "Among the environmental impacts of fast fashion are the depletion of non-renewable sources, emission of greenhouse gases and the use of massive amounts of water and energy. The fashion industry is the second largest consumer industry of water, requiring about 700 gallons to produce one cotton shirt and 2 000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans. Business Insider also cautions that textile dyeing is the world’s second-largest polluter of water since the water leftover from the dyeing process is often dumped into ditches, streams, or rivers." The production of mass amounts of clothing creates a continuous cycle of mass pollution.

Not only that, but the workers who make these clothes are treated terribly and work in terrible conditions. The majority of workers who operate in the textile industry are women, and this leaves room for excessive maltreatment and underpay from 'higher-ups.' Workers are not paid enough for their labor, and the fast fashion industry continues this horrific trend.

How to decrease your output

Fast fashion exists literally everywhere, so do not feel bad about purchasing from those stores. Just remember to keep those purchases at a minimum, and sign petitions to hold those stores accountable for the maltreatment of workers and for the neglect of the climate change crisis.


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