The Emergence of TikTok and Its Influence on the Environment

With TikTok’s 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 of today’s youth and their outlook on consumerism. The app has altered the landscape of various industries, such as marketing, news, politics, and fashion. Although TikTok has brought many new opportunities for companies to market their products, users do not feel the immediate effects of the app and how it has influenced far more than what shoes they decide to wear or what makeup trends they decide to follow: it has majorly impacted the health of our environment.

The addictive nature of TikTok has been achieved through the inner workings of the app’s algorithm and is what has contributed to its large-scale success. The user base has grown from 500 million users worldwide to 1.53 billion users as of 2023. It works very closely to cater to each and every viewer to lead to a more customized, smoother scrolling experience for the user.

The algorithm is tailored to TikTok users’ interests and hobbies, taking note of what type of content is most interacted with. 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 appealing through using the 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 eye-catching these trends might be, it’s taking a toll on something considerably more critical 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, and Amazon, as well as others for a very cheap price tag. The problem 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 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, or 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 trendy, think about the planet. Think about the impact you, as a consumer, can have on this environment simply through a credit card transaction.

By: Maddy Adler