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PARK: We must not conform to consumerism

Column: The Queue

College students may feel inclined to buy Apple's new AirPods Max, but are potential buyers falling victim to rampant consumerism? – Photo by Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels

In today's world, I am just a consumer. As I people-watch on my stroll down College Avenue, I am mentally taking note of things to add to my "want to purchase" list.

I pass a girl wearing the coolest leather jacket I have ever seen, and I am immediately reminded that I want to go thrifting for one of my own.

While sitting at Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus, I am reminded by the mass amount of students utilizing the entire Apple ecosystem that I have been eyeing the Apple AirPods Max for a few months now.

Worst of all, each festive red cup I see in the hands of passersby reminds me to open up the Starbucks app and order one of the new holiday drinks to sip on as a treat to myself.

Sure, this could all be attributed to my need to be in on every trend or the maximalist lifestyle to which I unfortunately ascribe. But I realize this may not be a problem only I face. Spending addiction is something that is apparent in many college students and is fueled by social media in a consumerism world.

American consumerism stems from a need to stay up-to-date with trends and fit in. One of the big drivers of this is marketing. From a business standpoint, knowing customers from a sociological perspective (i.e., knowing what will entice them and move them to buy your product) is extremely important.

As a consumer myself, I admit to being influenced one too many times.

Social media influencers, many of whom are women in their 20s, mainly target college-aged students, myself included. Sephora recently had its big bi-yearly sale, and I immediately went to TikTok to figure out which items I needed to put into my cart and buy.

Businesses obviously want their products and brands to do well, but when a mass wave of interest hits suddenly, it is extremely overwhelming for that specific business. And it can be overwhelming for the consumer, too — Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Drops were out of stock for months, and I only recently got my hands on it.

Not only does our ability to be influenced increase our consumption as college students but also the need for instant gratification. Convenience and quick entertainment are some of the main reasons we, as students, spend so much.

College-aged students are generally free from parental supervision but pressured more by their peers. This is a dangerous combination that only leads to one thing: overspending.

With Apple Pay, I can walk into Daniel's Pizzeria, grab a $5 slice and walk out having forgotten about the money I spent because I did not even have to pull out my wallet.

We get such gratification from the things we purchase, and it is only at the end of the month, when I get a text saying my online statement is ready to be paid, that I feel a tug in my stomach.

I always feel guilty spending money, even when it is my own. While I do get instant gratification from seeing a new Lululemon package at my doorstep, I cannot help but wonder if I would be happier in the long run with more money than a new workout set.

To own more and get more is not going to lead to an endgame of happiness. Students have such freedom compounded with peer pressure that we impulse buy or purchase without regard. And with the rise of e-commerce over the last decade, college students are at the heart of that demographic.

As students, we feel the need to want and have everything all at once. Perhaps some of us are in the financial position to do just that. On the other hand, it is imperative that we be mindful of the things that we are spending and not allow ourselves to fall too deeply into the pressures that consumerism places on society.

Annabel Park is a junior at Rutgers Business School, majoring in supply chain management and minoring in economics. Her column, "The Queue," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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