Can consumerism ever be a guilt-free experience?

For some, lockdown meant less shopping, but for others, it only added fuel to the ‘shopping obsession’ fire. With hours on end with nothing to do, it was easy to have ‘a quick look at comfy at home clothes’ which turned into hours of online shopping, lots of money spent, and lots and lots of boxes and packaging. In an essay for Vogue, Bella Mackie explored the difference between shopping for the sake of it, versus the utter feeling of joy she got from seeking out special pieces and useful items from smaller sellers and independent businesses. Lots of us may have started lockdown off with lots of random, unnecessary purchases, but by the end of lockdown, how many of us ended up thinking about shopping differently? 

For me, it started off as exactly how Bella described shopping for the sake of it. There is a really addictive, pervasive side of shopping. Buzzfeed’s website even has a dedicated shopping section, featuring pages and pages of articles which promote and encourage online shopping. Ads pop up on every single app or website you use, so that when you go online, shopping opportunities will tempt you from every direction. Online, you can find your size instantly; you can filter searches and get exactly what you want. You don’t even really have to search: it comes to you. 

Mainly, shopping is so addictive because it ignites the investigative, impulsive and most materialistic parts of you. You have the challenges of distinguishing good from bad, the battles of instantly falling in love, and the journey of rifling through sales (which there were a ton of during lockdown). All of those elements are exciting; they engage your brain and this was what people were looking for in a time where nothing else was happening. People had no work, and shopping online provided the stimulant in their brain that they craved. In lockdown, where the same old routine meant days felt like years, having a package arrive was something different, something you could look forward to.

But then, it hit me. The boxes were piling up and so was my guilt. I am primarily a charity shop girl: the bargains are unbelievable, the money goes to a good cause, and it is far better for the environment. Almost none of that applies when shopping online. But when lockdown shut down the country, the charity shops went with it. And the longer lockdown went on, the more I desperately wanted to get back to the charity shops. 

Bella is right. You can spend hours mindlessly scrolling through those Buzzfeed shopping articles, scrolling through ASOS or any online retailer, but you won’t get the same joy as when you give back as much as you get. When you support smaller independent businesses, or charity shops, you get a different feeling. I think it heightens all the things people love about shopping. You still have the hunt, the love, and the joy of spending money, but it all goes to someone who relies on it. It’s still the same shopping, but guilt-free! 

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Leia Butler

Leia Butler

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