Look, I get it. I think the little Vineyard Vines whale is just as cute as you do. Who wouldn't want that on every dress shirt they own? And it's very satisfying to watch the impressed looks on your friends' faces when they see you wearing both your new Lululemon leggings and your Patagonia.

However, the standard of buying certain brands to appeal to others has gone too far in recent years. We are a society in danger of getting lost in the depths of materialistic consumerism.

It sounds dramatic, but when you consider the path that American culture is currently on, the future appears pretty gloomy. A drastic increase in the capabilities of social media and technology has been both an aid and a detriment to impressionable minds. Children are being exposed to consumer culture at an earlier and earlier age. Suddenly, twelve-year-olds are not going through phases in which Justice, Aeropostale, or Abercrombie and Fitch clothes dominate their wardrobes.

Rather, due to the access they have to Instagram and other social media platforms, which show them the trends in fashion for women much older than them, they are jumping ahead six years and dressing like college girls.

The disheartening fact of this phenomenon is that these girls really aren't dressing according to their own style opinions. Mob mentality is affecting every American consumer today through brand monopolies. We are being manipulated without even realizing it.

Before a year ago, I never would have felt insecure when wearing my watch; now, I am slightly ashamed that it cannot sync to my phone or tell me my heart rate. I did not think twice about New Balance two years ago; flash forward to the present after they have become popular, and I wear my pair to class every day.

Remember the variety of phones that people owned before Apple forced its way into the market? Yeah, neither do I.

When we judge people by what brands they wear or own, we are saying that their worth is restricted to what items they like and can afford. Not only does this dehumanize individuals, but it creates a clear societal gap between people who are different. If you own the right brands, you have money, popularity, and style. If you don't, whether it's your choice or not, you're considered an outcast.

"Why don't you own AirPods? Come on, just buy them. Trust us, you'll feel so much cooler after." It might not be explicitly stated right now, but if we continue to rely on certain logos to confirm our place in the world, our morals and values will begin to matter less than our appearances. There is already enough division in our world; don't enable it.

To further expose the manipulation of popular brands upon our minds, I would like to reveal that it is, in fact, no coincidence that the products we consider "better" are more expensive. Can we all just be honest with ourselves and admit that Lululemon is needlessly expensive? With the money I would use to buy the average Lululemon legging (about $120), I can buy six pairs of leggings at T.J. Maxx that look and function the same as their popular counterparts. The best part is, no one can even tell the difference.

I once had a friend ask me if the leggings I was wearing were Lululemon, when, in fact, I got them from a regular department store. To this day, I am admittedly too proud of that moment.

Convincing the entire United States population that only certain brands of certain items should be bought completely contrasts the main tenet on which this country was founded: Freedom.

Freedom of expression not only applies to the written and spoken word, but also to our personal likes and dislikes. We should be free to wear whatever we want and free from the judgment of others. I should not have to worry about my sister coming home from school and immediately ordering one of those giant, gaudy letter necklaces, not because she wants a giant "M" sitting on her chest all of the time, but because she feels like she doesn't fit in without it.

We have been given the gift of developing our own style. It's time that gift was properly appreciated.

Don't be a follower. We have been taught all of our lives to be the shepherd and not the sheep. So, why do I see so many girls walking around downtown on a Friday night in those oversized, white fluffy coats? The metaphor practically constructs itself.

Enabling blind conformity in regards to consumerism can formulate a bad habit that trickles into other aspects of our everyday life, such as politics and prejudices. I do not mean that liking any of these brands is wrong. I just want you to take a step back and figure out if you would still buy them if society had not told you that you should.

Develop your inquisitive natures, learn to think for yourselves, and don't let anyone tell you what you should believe. Decide who you are and what you truly like, not what your Instagram feed tells you that you should want.

And, if, after all of that, Canada Goose parkas are still your favorite, then go ahead and spend those twelve hundred dollars to stay warm.