Argentinians are often known for our particular way of coping with daily situations that in other countries may appear quite unthinkable. With a highly unstable economy, increasing insecurity and absence of solid education and health systems, one thing is certain for the youth's future: uncertainty might as well be expected.
Growing up in Argentina is not easy. During the first semester of 2022, 36.5% of the population was set below the poverty line. This means millions of children that are not getting an education, nor proper nutrition or healthcare. Undoubtedly, this is currently -or should be- the most serious issue to be tackled as soon as possible, and the dominant media has made sure everyone is aware of it by constantly attacking the government in power, ending-up in the aggravation of our characteristic political polarization.
For this reason, I would like to discuss a less-polarizing, or urgent matter, that does however highlight overlooked ways in which, in today’s Argentina, almost everyone is trying to find new ways of getting by: Argentina’s middle-class youth, and how they (we), in the current Argentinian context, regardless of our preferred political side, are finding new ways to tackle the economic and social obstacles they are faced with; andi I want to tell you about this through a trend that has grown to be common among young Argentinians: selling clothes via Instagram stories.
The consulting company “FMyA” has shown that considering a three-product basket of clothing, Argentina’s prices were the most accelerated compared to other eight countries, within March and May 2022. Measured in US dollars, Argentina was the third most expensive country in the fashion industry among these countries. Brands that were traditionally accessible are now close to luxury, not to mention some international brands that had to leave the country; this results in fewer options when going shopping, or in spending a disproportionate amount of money on two or three items. On the other hand, excessive consumption within the clothing industry and its damage to the planet cannot be left out of this discussion: fast fashion causes huge quantities of low-quality clothes to be produced and put into the market for short periods of time, until people move on to the next trend. Clothing production represents 10% of CO2 total emissions, not to mention that 73% of the produced and sold clothes end-up in trash cans, contributing to earth and atmospheric contamination. This is a highly problematic situation which reaches all corners of the world. However, no matter what Argentinian generation is being studied, creativity and thinking out of the box seem to be the common factors, and this case is not an exception.
Social media has had a huge impact in our lives, since the moment we started paying more attention to what we show to others than to what we actually do. Personally, I think that this was empowered by the concept of the “story”, firstly installed by Snapchat and then replicated by Instagram. The idea of sharing a selected piece of our reality just for 24 hours -period after which that content may have never existed- is quite representative of the lack of commitment that we are experiencing these days. This surely sounds hopeless, but if we go deeper into what young people can and are doing with different apps, we might learn that they can be used for a greater good beyond individualism, connecting people who need with people who have. Here is where Argentinians take the center-stage, by installing an online market on Instagram, and I’m not only talking about creating accounts for startups; I mean using stories to offer what’s on your closet, which means a whole particular process I think it’s worth describing. This is no surprise, since at the beginning of 2022, Instagram carried out a survey among 13 to 24 year-old people with the goal of discovering the main trends for this year, and one of the results was that 23% of the youth would buy used clothes online, and 24% of them would sell clothes they don’t use anymore.
The first step is to go through all your clothes and separate those items you know you won’t be using anymore and that are in good condition for other people to acquire -same as you do whenever you want to sell or donate- and take good pictures of them. Now that you are sure you have a solid stock, you need to focus on your audience by crafting an appealing Instagram story, communicating to your followers that you will be sharing your products with your “close friends” list. Some people use memes, others just big and colorful fonts, but what can’t be missed is the poll: you are going to ask who would like to be included on this list and therefore have access to your own private shop. Next, you will update your close friends list with all of those people who voted “yes” in the poll, and then upload the photos you took (one story for each item). It’s good to add prices and also videos of yourself wearing the clothes, so potential buyers can have a more accurate sense of how they look and fit. Instagram’s DMs (direct messages) allow you to answer any questions that may come up, negotiate prices and arrange payment methods and deliveries. As soon as sellings are completed, you can go back to your original close friends list.
When I first saw this I thought it was just perfect: it means an additional -or unique- source of income for young people, a way of renewing your closet while saving some money and also becoming more consumer-conscious. All of this by easily sharing content as we usually do, but rethinking how we can take advantage of a tool like the close friends list so as to add value to our day-to-day social media activity. Although this phenomenon is not specifically described within studies or articles regarding the Argentinian youth’s relationship with social media, at least for now, it is gradually taking the center stage in a country where the context may not be the greatest for someone who is trying to make its way through middle school or university, while ensuring the necessary economic resources to survive while also being kind with the environment, all at the same time. In this sense, selling clothes via Instagram stories seems to be one more of many cases in which Argentinians -especially the youth- demonstrate the ability to come with innovative solutions for everyday problems.