The annual “Buy Nothing Day” has been gradually gaining momentum since 1992 when was it was organized in Canada “as a day for society to examine the issue of overconsumption.” In 1997, it was moved to coincide with Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving, which is one of the busiest shopping days in the United States.
The day of protest reportedly first started 52 years ago in 1968 when Ellie Clark and her family decided to disregard the commercialization of the Christmas holiday. It later became official in 2001 when a group of Canadian Mennonites created a website and gave the movement an official name. In recent years it has been increasingly embraced by like-minded groups, which are now utilizing social media to help spread the anti-consumer/anti-capitalist message. Perhaps some confuse the concept of socialism with social media.
The non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace (@Greenpeace), offered its support with its “The (not) shopping list,” and asked “What would you add to the (not) shopping list?
#BlackFriday #BuyNothingDay #LessIsMore”
Non-profit Life Squared (@Life_squared) also promoted the concept of buying nothing, “How can we help our kids to become people, rather than consumers?”
Author/publisher Kevin Williamson took an even harder line, and shared a video clip of John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of the punk rock group The Sex Pistols, with the bold statement “Today is #BuyNothingDay F*** capitalism” – but one must wonder whether the publisher would turn down sales of his books today?
Clearly some even saw irony as @missllieaquas responded, “Says he with a smartphone, tablet, computer, buys things from amazon, gadgets galore, wardrobe filled with clothes, multiple pairs trainers, a mortgage, car, makes money for his company, buys lunch from subway, drinks beer and designer coffee, has a Smartwatch etc. Am I wrong?”
Another user, @TweeMiddleClass pondered, “Is that John Lydon who signed a huge deal with EMI, Kevin?”
Many across social media saw good reasons beyond mere consumerism not to head the message to buy nothing. @Suzanne64449706 responded, “I would buy regardless. If I buy, someone somewhere is earning a living because I have bought what they make or repair. There is enough unemployment without you trying to make it even worse, at this rate we will end up eating each other in time!”
Others suggested perhaps 2020 might not be the best year to take to the soap box. @awlilnatty responded, “I know we’d all like it to be #BuyNothingDay today, but I think it’s important not to shame or put pressure on those who use today to save money. This time of year is stressful and costly at the best of times, not least after an incredibly testing and difficult year.” She also added, “Perhaps our focus should be on using today to save on presents people need, rather than what they want. Many of us are in need right now, including in need of saving pennies where we can.”
The Amazon Backlash
Social media also saw a lot of anger directed towards Amazon.com and its founder billionaire Jeff Bezos. In addition to the hashtag #BuyNothingDay, the hashtag #MakeAmazonPay was also trending on Friday morning.
UK Labour MP Beth Winter (@BethWinterMP) asked directly, “In this crisis where millions of people have been struggling to get by, Jeff Bezos’ wealth has increased by $70 billion. Last year, Amazon paid £6.3 million in corporation tax in the UK on more than £13 billion worth of sales. #MakeAmazonPay #BuyNothingDay”
Progressive International (@ProgIntl) offered multiple comments on Twitter, “Workers of the world are uniting against Amazon. Support them with a donation to the #MakeAmazonPay strike fund at http://makeamazonpay.com”
Greenpeace in Central and Eastern Europe (@CeeGreenpeace) also chimed in on this issue, “We are standing in solidarity with those fighting Amazon´s excessive power, worker oppression and planet & climate wrecking practices. Let’s make today a Green Friday and #MakeAmazonPay.”
Social advocacy group The Leap (@TheLeap_Org) also called out Amazon and Bezos on Black Friday, “During the #COVID19 pandemic @amazon became a trillion dollar corporation, with CEO @JeffBezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth. #BlackFriday It’s time to #MakeAmazonPay”
Not All Anti-Consumer
Many across social media have also shown an understanding that many people still work in retail, and that consumerism does support jobs and a healthy economy.
@irin_ska offered this insight, “On Black Friday or any other day – shop locally, shop consciously and support workers and local communities #MakeAmazonPay #BlackFriday #BlackFriday2020”
@Euphful1 also called out Buy Nothing Day stating, “I called it before but #BuyNothingDay is further proof that people are stupid and defiant. Consumerism isn’t you buying things, it’s when you buy things that you don’t need just for the sake of it. Black Friday is a chance to save money if you’re smart enough to wait, it’s simple”
Many African-American entrepreneurs also saw an opportunity to embrace Black Friday with the hashtag #BuyBlack. While not promoting consumerism, this is about supporting black-owned businesses.
Black Lives Matter Michigan (@BLMMichigan) took up the cause and asked, “What are your favorite Black businesses in Michigan? Looking for some Black causes and biz to put your money where it matters? We will be sharing community orgs and biz throughout the holiday season. #BuyBlack”
Dre’ Auna of BookViewsByDre.com (@BabyHooper) in New York City was among those small businesses that was embracing #BuyBlack, ” It costs $0.00 to retweet & help me grow my small business Sparkles”
And with that let the holiday season begin.