What you shouldn’t be buying (and what you should buy instead)
Have you been #deinfluenced? If your TikTok feed is anything like mine, I’m sure you’ve come across this trend.
If you’re not familiar with the concept (or if you’ve been lucky enough to have escaped the clutches of TikTok), “deinfluencing” is a phenomenon in which a content creator will tell you what to avoid buying or what you don’t need to buy. This stands in contrast with traditional influencers, who are usually recommending an endless stream of products, all with an extra discount code that’ll earn them a commission.
Like everything on the internet, what’s old is new again. If you were online and aware of the YouTube beauty community between 2016 and 2018, you’ve likely heard of ‘anti-hauls.’ If a haul is a video in which you show off what you’ve bought, an anti-haul describes all of the things you’re not going to buy.
Anti-hauls were a revelation in the beauty community, with popular creators like drag queen Kimberly Clark encouraging viewers to think about their purchases thoughtfully and not be mindlessly pulled along by the hype train. She pointed viewers to other anticonsumerist resources like Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir and their 2007 movie, What Would Jesus Buy? (It’s free on YouTube!)
But is deinfluencing (or anti-hauling) different from regular influencing? According to Buzzfeed, not really. Many deinfluencers just recommend alternatives to replace popular products, such as a basic reusable water bottle to replace the trendy $52 Stanley cup.
Deinfluencing has the potential to create positive change. Some deinfluencers share powerful stories of overcoming shopping addiction or extreme FOMO. Christina Mychas shares she used to buy products influencers recommended because she “was so insecure and unsure of [herself] and what [she] wanted/what [she] actually liked,” leaving her “broke and more stressed about money and even less confident in [herself].”
Some content creators who make deinfluencing content also point out dangerous health misinformation spread by some influencers. Take Michelle Skidelsky, who emphasizes that you should “go see a doctor” if you have health concerns instead of buying any influencer-recommended gut health, hormone-balancing, or nutritional supplements.
Consumerism and anticonsumerism seem to ebb and flow in a trend cycle, like low-rise jeans. The late 2010s anti-haul movement in the beauty community started largely in response to the overwhelming amount of products beauty companies were pushing out, and the frenzy with which beauty influencers were encouraging consumers to buy every new release.
2020 stay-at-home orders made online shopping become commonplace for more than just essentials. Shopping during the pandemic became a comfort, a source of novelty, and a way to have something to look forward to or to get a quick serotonin boost. As we move further from our lockdown lifestyles and into an uncertain financial future, perhaps we realize that the things we bought or were influenced to buy didn’t make us happier or more fulfilled.
Fast fashion, overconsumption, haul culture, and consumerism, in general, aren’t going anywhere. But perhaps #deinfluencing can encourage us to be thoughtful about what we buy and to be skeptical about anyone with a discount code.