Hooked Online: What to Do About an Internet Shopping Addiction

When Jeff Bezos announced at the beginning of February 2021 that he would soon be stepping down, people around the world started to muse on his legacy with the incredible powerhouse that is today Amazon.com.

From a humble beginning in a garage way back in 1995, Jeff’s company is now worth over US$1.7 trillion. Originally a bookseller (remember when people used to read stuff printed on paper?), today you can get virtually anything from a spatula to a prefab house on the site Bezos built. 

Internet shopping would have become a thing with or without Jeff Bezos as the tech and the idea fit. It’s easier to shop online and more convenient to have purchases delivered than to go out to an actual store.

But Amazon’s simple return policy, the prices, the algorithms directing you to find stuff you like, the gift coupons, etcetera, changed the online shopping world in a fundamental way. Which is not to say that the site was beneficial to all who used it; sellers and inventors oft complain about the way the company pushes down margins and “improves on” their ideas. 

Also, unquestionably, ever-easier online shopping aided in our collective addiction to shopping. Jeff isn’t to blame here; he didn’t create some new technology in the sense that Mark Zuckerberg did with Facebook.

Shopping is an ancient activity and sometimes vice. In fact, it may be the only vice that is not only acceptable, but blatantly encouraged.

Aside from North Korea – where there is no advertising at all except for ads touting the ecstatic marvels of the Kim family dynastic regime – almost everywhere you go in the world, one is confronted with billboards, placards, signs, flashing lights, pamphlets, mailings and any other conceivable method of advertising, each urging you to go shopping – NOW! The internet has only consolidated and perfected the ad delivery process. 

For Many, Online Shopping Addictions Are Actually Internet Addictions 

Internet Shopping

Oniomania is the term a psychiatrist might use for a shopping addiction. And an addiction it is. Similar to any other addiction, those affected get a hit of dopamine when they find that perfectly priced item that they just have to have; the same item that, five minutes ago, didn’t even know existed.

Gambling, social media, drugs, codependent relationships, they all offer some combination of this reward system that induces compulsive behavior. And with compulsive shopping comes ‘compulsive spending.’ Do any of these warning signs hit home? 

  • “Emotional shopping.”-A desire to shop as a reaction to an emotion.
  • Purchasing things on credit; things you would never buy with cash as that would be…well, foolish! 
  • Misleading others or downright lying about your shopping or the money you spent on it. 
  • Borrowing from X to pay Y because the “payment due” notices keep coming, but your bank account doesn’t fill up by magic.

If you don’t remember anything else from this article, remember this: An addiction to shopping online is commonly actually a type of internet addiction. Those suffering from social anxiety don’t need to see or talk to anyone and similar to other online addictions, you feel safe, anonymous and protected behind your laptop screen.

Maybe it’s time to use some good tech to block the bad tech of targeted ads and other temptations those with an online shopping “habit” face each day. 

Is an Online Shopping Addiction Messing with Your Life?  -Try a Blocking App 

For a growing number of people – some figures estimate as much as 10% of the US population, a shopping addiction – and today most are online shopping addictions – are genuine, serious problems that lead to significant decreases in life quality.

There are now AA-style meetings, counseling and other help options available, but one simpler way of learning how to overcome shopping addiction is learning how to control the internet. You don’t have to see every ad or page each time you go online. You can use blocking software – or a simple blocking app.

Download the app, determine the sites and things you don’t want to be exposed to and for how long and at what times, then sit back and use the internet in peace. 

Marketing and advertising messages are the bread and butter of the web; but you can choose how much of that surround sound noise you want to be exposed to: blocking apps let you unsubscribe from email lists, and disallow access to sites that give you that itch to shop. 

There are so many online triggers for impulse buying. Some people use the term “retail therapy” in jest – as if shopping might actually improve one’s psychological health. Obviously, for the vast majority of us, this is not the case.

You worked hard for your money; you deserve to enjoy a life of comfort – but you don’t need an addiction to mindless materialism. Protect yourself and your brain by shutting out those who would rob you of both money and time.

You are not for sale and your life with not be put on discount. Take the first step today and begin the path to recovery. All you have to do is reach out and ask for it – or, as a good start, reach out and download a tool that blocks temptation.

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