Life in the perpetual shopping mall
On buying and being bought
I’m experimenting with swapping free and paid posts for a while - so this one is paywalled, but Sunday’s Stray Attention will be free for all. Enjoy!
When I’m scrolling through Instagram, I often notice how well it knows me. When I first received advertising on the platform, it was jarring: nasty little images that told me how to lose belly fat, or cleaning products to feed my assumed obsession with bacteria. You are a middle aged woman, it seemed to scream at me. Go on a diet! Make your house nice! It felt good to ignore those messages.
But now, it has got me all figured out. My feed is a riot of chunky socks, non-wired bras, substantial footwear and supplements for gastric distress. I also get served slippers, rescued coffee beans, brightly coloured rain macs and artisanal charcoal. I want all of these things. I sometimes wish my husband understood me like Instagram does.
I’m not particularly interested in shopping. I like nice things, but I generally feel that I have plenty of them already. I don’t see shopping as a leisure activity, and I have no interest in following trends. I tend to keep what I buy for decades. I feel like I shouldn’t be vulnerable to this kind of thing. And yet quite often on Instagram, I find that I’ve clicked through an ad almost without realising I’ve done it, and I’ve landed in a place where there are many chunky socks, and they’re all, somehow, £30 a pair. I find this price point very easy to resist, but nevertheless, my attention has been captured somehow, and against my will. It troubles me.