I’m Inspired to Consume, and It’s All the Internet’s Fault

Pretty images are like crack. I can’t look away. I can’t stop clicking on page after page, link after link, saving many of them to peek at later, surreptitiously, like something forbidden. The thing is, they kind of are. Because seeing all of these beautiful things on a daily basis – dresses, jewelry, lanterns, pillowcases, even stupid things like paperweights – make me want to collect. To spend. To accumulate. Groan. Am I once again buying things I don’t need?

I blame the internet.

For example, something wonderful arrived in my inbox yesterday: an invitation to join Pinterest. Not only is Pinterest a personal online ‘inspiration wall’, a place to digitally ‘pin up’ things you love, whether items of clothing, pretty hairstyles or simply images that strike a chord – it’s a feast for the eyes. A dangerous one. Take a look and tell me you don’t sigh and ooh and covet.

Having just recently joined Polyvore, the site that lets you arrange items from practically any store on the internet into lovely little ensembles, and inevitably falling into hour after hour (oh man, I really just revealed something about myself there, didn’t I?) of browsing the images created by others, I feel myself wanting. Me, a woman who just sold or donated three-quarters of her possessions to be free of the burden of too much stuff. A woman with a somewhat austere, carefully edited closet of matching items that can be worn in as many seasons as possible.

The last time I brutally culled a dozen blouses, skirts and dresses I told myself that from then on, each individual item I added to my wardrobe would have to earn its place.

But… look at that perfect little black dress… oh, and the way it’s complemented by those vintage mustard-yellow heels… and wouldn’t they both be set off to utter perfection by that eggplant wristlet? A simple pendant of rough violet-hued quartz on a long brass chain would pull it all together… Sigh. Just. Stop. Already.

And then there are all the other sources of sartorial temptation. My browser bookmarks are packed with blogs curated by enviably stylish people, like Kathleen and Hannah and Tamera (whose musings on digitally-induced desire inspired this post). Street style blogs like Lookbook.nu give me all sorts of ideas for possible additions to my closet.

It’s not just clothes. I have folder after folder on my Macbook of beautiful interiors, and get caught up in online shelter mags that make me want to get rid of everything I own and start from scratch with a newly acquired aesthetic that will change again in a few months, thanks to all of these pictures.

Help, I’m drowning in beauty, and I just clicked Add to Cart.

Of course, it’s possible to still feel this nagging sense of want without the internet. For centuries we have walked down main streets in cities all over the world and peered into store windows and wished or perhaps purchased. And we are surrounded by advertisements that are designed to provoke a lust for material things.

But the internet has opened up a whole new world of temptation. It exposes us to objects and styles that we might never have seen otherwise. And it makes it so damn easy to track those things down, to have them in a cardboard box on the doorstep within days.

Does this promote the problem of overconsumption, or pave the way for more considerate purchasing? It certainly has the curious effect of lowering that all-important number on my bank statements. There’s a reason I’ve become a clothes nazi: I’m planning to build and live in a tiny house (a plan that has been delayed but is nonetheless still on). Piles of possessions are out, edited is in.

The solution? Self-control, of course – which is not as easy as it sounds. In this digital age of imagery overload it’s easy to feel unfashionable. Plus, I work online all day, so the exposure never ends.

Temptation is tough. I will still save all of those pretty pictures, if only because I so enjoy looking at them, and because inspiration is a precious thing. But rather than treating it like a buffet of goods beckoning me to buy, buy, buy, I hope I can learn to value them more consciously.

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.