Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Feature Article: Am I an online shopping addict?

A bit of a different post today, I've recently had to write a short feature article for my magazine feature writing class at uni and I've written about the topic of online shopping addiction. So I thought I would share it with my readers as a way to get my writing out there into the world! Also just an FYI, I am not an online shopping addict I dramatised my own situation to make my article sound good haha, I don't have a constant stream of parcels arriving at my door. So to the 3 people who will probably read this, thank you and I hope you enjoy!

It began with eBay, searching for the occasional craft product, knowing I could find it cheaper online, and tentatively using my parents’ credit card with their permission of course. However, with the coming of age and the inevitable ownership of a debit card, I was unleashed in the online shopping universe and have spent the last 15 days checking my mailbox incessantly for my package from to arrive. So is that addiction or just being eager?

We often hear the same story when it comes to online shopping addiction, women who accumulate enormous debt, buying things they don’t need that often go unused hidden in the back of a closet and their lives falling apart because of their debt. April Lane Benson is a Manhattan based psychologist who was quoted in Amanda Fairbanks’ 2011 Huffington Post article ‘Guilt Addicts Anonymous: The Daily Online Flash Sale Fixation’ as saying that telltale symptoms of shopping addiction are using shopping as a quick fix for feeling down, buying more than what they intended, feeling buyers-regret where they feel guilty after a purchase and hiding their purchases from family and friends. Often the cause of this addiction is rooted in underlying issues like depression and anxiety. So as I sit in a lecture that I am supposed to be listening to scrolling through the newest arrivals at easily accessible on my tablet, I wonder if this is the path that I am heading down.

I will admit I wasn’t always a fan of the online shopping scene. I was one of those obsessive compulsive types who spent hours in a shopping centre going into every store, looking at every item making sure I didn’t miss out on a bargain. I needed to be able to try everything on, I liked being able to touch the fabric and see the quality, it had to pass the does-this-feel-itchy test. Mostly however, I enjoyed the shopping experience; it was an escape, adventure and a pleasure.

However as I began to admire the online fashion bloggers in the northern-hemisphere who had access to the trends hot off the runway before Australia caught up with the times, I grew tiresome and impatient of the lag between what I thought was trendy now and what would be in stores in 6 months time. So I began to shop where they shopped, and I was introduced to a whole new world of stores right at my fingertips. Armed with my debit card and my very own Paypal account came the first purchase, and with that came another and then another, a steady stream of parcels delivered straight to my door.

The excitement of this new purchase is palpable until I click the ‘purchase’ button where I then feel consumed with worry and just a touch of guilt. What if it doesn’t look good? Was that just a waste of money? Did I really need that? What if it never arrives? With these feelings of stress and guilt I wonder, is it really all worth it? However after days of waiting there is the reliable knock at the door and the subsequent excitement as the delivery man hands me my package and I sign on the dotted line. I scurry back to my room with my loot in hand and as I tear open the packaging I am filled with suspense and joy, ready to blog about my latest purchases to the world.

When it comes to shopping online, it can often feel like you are not using real money. The purchase is made so quickly with just a few clicks and your details remembered from a previous purchase, that before you know it a package is on its way and you have moved on to the next website checking their new arrivals. Unlike others facing addiction, I find I retain some self-control, not allowing my purchases to blow out knowing that my debit card has its limits.

So why does shopping make me feel so good? And why do I keep doing it? I think it’s because I admire the women behind my favorite fashion blogs so much that I aspire to be like them. Their lives in blog form seem to be so perfect that during my personal times of stress and anxiety my subconscious thinks that having the same clothes they do will make others believe that I have my life altogether too. Is that a sign of low self-esteem? Perhaps a professional opinion is needed on that one.

Alas the question remains, is there hope for a fashion-obsessed-soon-to-be-20-year-old-with-a-credit-card-and-taste-for-high-end-labels? In the fashion world I want to be in, probably not, with the pressure to keep up with the times and stay on trend. So I just hope that the fear of paying full retail and the bargain hunter within me remains strong. 

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