The Danger of Online Consumption

Posted on December 13, 2013

Shopping online is a relatively new concept for me.

I moved to Canada just over a year ago and found the sheer availability of online retail opportunities astounding. Now it may not look like much from the vantage point of those south of the border, but compared to New Zealand, it was incredible what you could buy without so much as setting foot in a store.

Throw in free shipping, a wider range of styles and one click payment options, and it’s a wonder anyone goes through the hassle of leaving the house to shop.

I found myself jumping on the online shopping bandwagon with new vigor this week thanks to the irresistible marketing ploy that is Cyber Monday. Within the space of one hour, I had selected and placed an order on not three, but four pairs of jeans.

There was something about zipping through overly zoomed in images and blithely adding them to my cart that just felt so effortless. After throwing in my payment details and clicking on the submit button, I realised I would never, ever have gone into a store and bought four pairs of jeans.

There is a cool detachment that spurs online purchases, where often you have nothing to show for your shopping experience but a plain text email confirmation in your inbox. No product fondling, no checkout jitters, no coming home carting armloads of swag. It all feels very disconnected.

Which makes it so much easier to keep on buying.

The same goes for all those intangible e-products. A quick nip into Google Play and I can inadvertently purchase a series of apps, games and add-ons without even entering my payment details.

The Kindle store is another great example. One button and I can get any book delivered to my little device in a matter of seconds. In a bookstore, I would have browsed through a entire selection of books before making my final pick, gripping it like a prized gem when I finally arrived at the cashier.

It comes down to the nature of the internet as a medium of quick clicks and instant gratification.

Online, we’re used to getting what we want immediately. Payment is no longer a barrier, it is now stripped down to the most efficient means necessary so that’s it’s almost as if we’re not buying at all.

We’re spending without actually feeling like we’ve bought anything.

So are we becoming more and more detached from our consumption when we shop online?

In my case, I tend to process the monetary consequences of purchases more when I buy them in person. At least when you go to the store there’s a physical certainty, a real feel to what it is you’re buying.

It sometimes scares me how much more willing I am to spend money through a computer browser than to part with it in real life.

photo credit: sciencesque via photopin cc

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