At a moment when social media is revealing itself (even more than usual) to be one of the greater threats to our privacy and — arguably — democracy, my little concern here is a relatively minor one, but I’m going to say it anyway: Social media is making me want to buy stuff, and it’s getting to be a problem.
For years — since we had a child, basically — i have tried very, very hard to not buy unnecessary things. (I fail at this regularly, but I am better than I used to be and have gotten extremely conscientious at buying used things, at least, instead of new things.) The reasons I have for this stance are myriad: I don’t want to waste money on anything that doesn’t serve an immediate and necessary purpose, or at least “spark joy”, to borrow a Kondoism; I don’t want to be a cog in the capitalist/materialist corporate wheel of greed; I don’t want to contribute to environmental waste; and — maybe most importantly — I don’t want to have to figure out where to store crap in our relatively small house. My resolve only grew earlier this winter when I read the fabulous New York Times op-ed from Ann Patchett about her year of not buying, and it sounded so … well, just … correct.
Anyway. Not actually going shopping has not been a big problem for me because — like every other mother on the planet — I’ve barely had time to shower since maternity leave ended, much less wander around Walnut Street or a mall. Likewise, it’s not hard for me to flip through the Crate and Barrel catalog and know that I’m not in the market right now for what they’re selling. I try to stay out of Target — or at least speed-walk past the problem aisles (clothes and home decor). What’s really turned out to be alarming, though, is Instagram — specifically, how effective the targeted-exactly-to-me marketing on Instagram has become. I mean, just look at these beautifully curated items! They’re just my style! And from some cool company I’ve never even heard of! What else have I been missing? I’m suddenly like the modern version of your aunt who buys everyone’s Christmas presents on QVC. I have, I am sorry to tell you, bought leggings, shoes (hello, Rothy’s!), a bra, Bombas socks after first seeing them on my social media feed.
I am also at any given moment eyeing, oh, about a dozen more things that have been served up to me on a silver platter via Instagram because I’ve obviously given the social media overlords enough insights into my brain at this point that they know before I do that I need an eyelet blouse and also probably special bleach for the bathroom grout. It’s super-creepy, but then, we’ve known that it’s super-creepy (and way, way worse than creepy) because, well: YIKES and WHAT HAVE WE DONE.
Given all of the heavy, consequential social-media-related stuff in the news these days, the shocking effectiveness of Instagram direct marketing is barely worth mentioning, except that it’s one more way being on my phone makes me feel like I’ve given into the dark side somehow. Here I am, scrolling though baby pics and exercise videos and Pete Souza jabs (love him!), and then, suddenly, I’m craving more Rothy’s (they come in sparkles now, didja know?) and also a vintage-style dress from ModCloth, kids’ clothes from some company called PatPat, Sio beauty patches for wrinkles, frames from Framebridge, something house-related from a place called Havenly (still unclear exactly what they sell??), and so on, and so forth.
It’s diabolical, and it’s brilliant, the way this stuff seeps into my brain when I’m at my most vulnerable. (Read: Giggling over whatever Celeste Barber just posted.) (Also: It doesn’t help that Rothy’s are about the best thing i discovered in 2017, or that those Bombas socks really DO rule.)
So clearly, I have to learn to steel myself to yet another nefarious influence social media has on my brain and spending habits. Or, you know, just log off and quit it all. (But that’s another post.)