The Michigan Daily Is Right To Criticize TikTok Consumerism, And Conservatives Should Listen

With the explosion of online social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, there has been a near-parallel explosion in online mass consumerism. When Facebook saw an explosion in popularity, the social media platform implemented “Facebook Marketplace,” which served as a significant digital marketplace where consumers would have the opportunity to splurge on relatively mundane and uninspired consumer products. 

As consumers continued to gravitate towards online shopping and as the online marketplace expanded, new outlets began to arise. TikTok, a social media platform that has seen a considerable rise in popularity within the past several years, has jumped on the trend by opening the “TikTok Shop” in what is quickly becoming the primary online marketplace.

After seeing the introduction of the TikTok Shop and observing its rapid increase in popularity, an author for The Michigan Daily took notice of the new digital marketplace and published an article directly criticizing the TikTok Shop and what the exploding of online marketplaces may represent. The article pointed to a Forbes magazine column stating that nearly half of all members of Gen-Z discover new products via social media or online exposure. The article also includes anecdotal evidence regarding the popularity of these online marketplaces among adolescents and young adults, some of whom would go to physical store locations inquiring about products they saw on TikTok or another social media platform. 

However, the most intriguing aspect of this article is the overarching point regarding American capitalism and modern consumer culture.

The article hypothesizes that modern American capitalism and mindless consumerism have led to massive billion-dollar companies capitalizing on consumer impulses and encouraging endless spending on frivolous goods for corporate profit. Furthermore, the article highlights the implications that this push by significant companies to introduce online marketplaces can have on adolescents by taking advantage of their fear or anxiety regarding a particular trend, such as beauty products. 

While the article may initially appear as a simple argument against what is generally perceived as “conservative economics,” not only is the article correct regarding the implications of these online marketplaces, but the overarching argument regarding mindless consumerism should serve as a wake-up call for laissez-faire economics and those who subscribe to this economic ideology, which generally encompasses many conservatives.

The implications that online marketplaces and shopping outlets can have on adolescents and young adults continue to increase as these online marketplaces continue to grow in prevalence. Online Shopping Addiction Tendency (OSAT) is an increasingly prevalent behavioral pattern that is easily the most common among college-aged students. Some studies indicate that OSAT is most common among college-aged students who have recently experienced an adverse event or are undergoing personal hardship, which would corroborate the observation that major corporations can take advantage of certain hardships or difficulties experienced by individuals and encourage them to buy their products.

These online marketplaces also provide a glimpse into the relentless increase in consumerism observed within our broader society. In modern society, a desire for instant gratification is near-ubiquitous among citizens. The ability to do an activity, such as buying intriguing products or goods, that results in satisfaction or the stimulation of our reward system is highly sought after. This cycle of spending on frivolous goods and seeking instant satisfaction via our reward system is a significant contributor to the problematic consumerism we see today and can help to explain why many individuals struggle to control their spending habits. However, it is crucial to recognize the negative implications of this cycle and one way it was was enabled.

Until the past several years, conservative economics appeared to be in near lockstep with the ideals of laissez-faire capitalism, where large businesses are given free rein to further their profits at the expense of smaller firms and, frequently, the well-being of citizens. This trend seems to be somewhat reversing among some conservative voters, although this trend has not reversed among most conservative politicians or institutions.

Numerous conservative politicians and think tanks continue to support economic principles of minimal regulation and maximum individualism, which feeds the cycle of mindless consumerism. Conservatives should recognize that this type of laissez-faire capitalism is not necessarily beneficial to the populace. Supporting capitalism does not mean that any and all regulations ought to be opposed, and fortunately, some right-leaning think tanks, such as the American Compass, recognize this. Economic conservatives must consider whether this ideology is sustainable and should reconsider being hellbent on the ideals of laissez-faire capitalism as they continue to struggle to expand their voter base, especially among young voters.

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About Wade Vellky

Wade Vellky, editor in chief of the Michigan Review, is a rising junior in LSA. Originally from Orange Township, Ohio, he previously attended the University of Wisconsin and Ohio State University.