It is December 2020, and about nine months have passed since I began life within my bubble consisting of the kitchen and the living room couch. The only node that connects me to the outside world is the Internet.
In the span of months, new art prints have been taken on and off my walls, my closet has been reorganized and added to and many failed cakes have been baked. A lot of my free time in quarantine involves some form of change, a way to take my mind off of the chaos going on in the world.
Panic buying has come and gone in waves. From hand sanitizer to toilet paper, deals on the Internet have fluctuated at staggering rates as demand far outweighed the supply. To cater to increasing traffic, online shopping sites are taking advantage of consumers to advertise more. Retailers’ online revenue growth rose 68% since April, according to Forbes.
There is a definite and consistent spike in online purchases for household supplies and groceries. But when will we address the nonessential side of the spectrum?
As quarantine conditions persisted and people realized lockdown would last a while, they began to find outlets for coping mentally. The accessibility of online shopping platforms from the safety of one’s home combined with a greater amount of leisure time made for a surefire rise in consumer activity.
Classes are all online, and most extracurricular activities are risky, put on hold. In terms of practicality, there is no need for new outfits and more games, devices or accessories. There are no stares to make me rethink my fashion choice nor superficial judgement to be felt. All anyone has and will see of me is my head and neck.
However, I, for one, have grown increasingly dependent on retail sites throughout quarantine. With social distancing measures firmly in place and the health of my family members to keep in mind, I refrained from venturing into the outside world for long periods of time. Excursions to malls and restaurants were not feasible options. Instead, I found myself scrolling through advertisements at night awed by the variety of items offered by sellers from kitchen appliances to craft supplies. Most of the time, I don’t even end up buying whatever I was looking at.
The holiday season is only adding to the surge in online shopping. Research from Adobe Analytics shows that for the week of Nov. 4 this year, U.S. consumers spent $21.7 billion online, and are projected to spend about $193.78 billion using this method during winter, according to Digital Commerce 360.
Online shopping seems to cure my boredom, give me an outlet for my pent-up impulsivity and entertain me on a scale to which nothing compares. A 2013 study done by Professor Ayalia Ruvio at Michigan State University assessed the relationship between materialism and traumatic stress. Rampant unemployment, economic instability and other psychological burdens in times like the pandemic have been shown to increase consumer spending.
For those who do not have strict schedules or events to look forward to, tracking packages offers solace and anticipation. According to Mashable’s Anna Iovine, “Many people are currently experiencing a loss of control, and shopping could be a way of coping with it. It gives people a sense of agency and volitional behavior over their otherwise non-autonomous lives, as they have to both stay at home and watch what’s happening to the outside world unfold before them.”
The professional graphics and products offered by virtual stores seem to be endless, stimulating the brain and conjuring oh-so-lovely visions of actually owning products. Even deciding which products to buy or not engages the psyche, keeping one occupied for quite some time. I dare say the process itself is where the fun lies, as I find myself ending up with too much spare time nowadays.
I justify looking at inflatable whales planning for “the summer after quarantine,” blatantly ignoring the fact that I despise swimming pools and don’t know how to swim. I fantasize of easier times, when my only worry was where I wanted to travel to for a family trip. Iovine elaborates that “shopping can provide a sort-of wish fulfillment for our future selves, even if we have no idea what the future will look like.” Planning for the future is a way to remain hopeful, waiting for a better, safer time to come.
Many don’t have much occasion to even leave their house, so buying clothes or trinkets are especially unnecessary. However, shopping nowadays is not of necessity but a way to escape, a coping mechanism for those who can be comforted by material wealth. In times such as these, I feel like it’s okay to treat yourself. Your mental well-being is of utmost importance.
The year is coming to an end and there is a lot of uncertainty about what the future will bring. We won’t be prepared for everything, and the world may undergo a lot of change. Things will get overwhelming, but those moments will be faced and overcome one at a time. Find your comfort place and what makes you happy. For me, it just happens to be in the shopping cart icon on my screen.