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8 glasses (or two Stanley tumblers) a day: The conspicuous consumption behind TikTok trends

Every once in a while whilst scrolling TikTok, a video will appear on your ‘For You’ page that will make you wonder how it got there, and soon enough you find yourself falling down a rabbit hole of videos from a subsection of TikTok you never knew existed. Let me introduce you to ‘WaterTok’:

‘WaterTok’ is a section of TikTok consisting of Americans who would have their minds blown by Ribena.

Following this trend, these users are combining flavour powders and flavoured syrups with water to create a drink they’re calling… water. Ignoring the various syrups and additives, these ‘waters’ come in flavours such as ‘Pina Colada’, ‘Cotton Candy Watermelon’, or simply ‘Unicorn’.

Like most subsections of TikTok, conspicuous consumption exists at its heart, with those wanting to be part of ‘WaterTok’ needing to purchase a number of items to be a fully fledged member. These items include but aren’t limited to: at least four types of flavour powder sachet, three bottles of flavoured syrup, storage boxes for the sachets, a Lazy Susan, and a 40oz Stanley travel tumbler (retailing for $40 in the US or £55 in UK stores). I say ‘at least’ there because the most ardent followers of the trend pride themselves on their ‘Hydration Station’ set-up; consisting of drawers full of flavour powder sachets, bottles of various syrups and collections of Stanley tumblers in an array of colours.

Followers of the trend say that using these flavour powders and syrups helps them increase their daily water intake, which may be true, but the level of consumption these trends involve must be noted. Focusing on the Stanley tumbler alone, which became popular in its own right in early 2022, those influenced by the trend have been compelled to buy the reusable tumbler in various colours in order to build their collection. The brand continues to restock and release new colours, and resale prices can be 2.5x the retail cost. Made of 90% recycled stainless steel, the main attraction of these cups is supposed to be helping customers be more sustainable through reducing the amount of single use plastic they use, however the proliferation of these cups as a sign of status within ‘WaterTok’ only helps push the idea that being sustainable is an expensive endeavour.

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