Separating Needs from Wants


Lea Flavier

It is no question that consumerism has grown vastly over the years because of the great heights the commercial industry is able to reach, as well as the influential impact of the internet. Online shopping is one of the many tools a person can source their material needs. During the pandemic, the E-Commerce industry rose to prominence, with sales rising from $571.2 billion in 2019 to $815.4 billion in 2020, according to the 2020 ARTS release. Shopping online had integrated itself into today’s new normal, with sites such as Amazon, Shein, and Cider providing their customers solace through retail therapy, a term first coined in the 1980s. But with how it has reached people from all over the world, it will certainly not be left unscathed from scrutiny.

Apps such as Instagram and Tiktok equip their users with an intricately curated algorithm that gives them content and ads that align with their interests. This fashions a wave of intrigue wherein they’re surrounded by content creators that are within their leisure. These creators most often influence people into purchasing items that they recommend, whether for an aesthetic they conform to or for its practicality. While this concept is not inherently problematic, its consequences prove to be harmful finance-wise and to the environment.

Amazon had accumulated 465 million pounds of waste from seven billion packages in 2019  alone. This has yet to account for other shopping platforms and other factors (such as carbon emissions from shipping) that come to play when delivering the parcel from the factory to the warehouse to your doorstep. Moreover, aside from its negative impact from an environmental standpoint, overexposure to online shopping appears to be detrimental and changes the perception of happiness. It provides a kind of comfort, yes, but material satisfaction will never be sated as new products and trends arise, only convincing people to splurge impulsively online. 

As the age of digitalism continues, it is unlikely that shopping online will cease to be a recreational activity. However, we need to know how to separate our needs from our wants. While this is not saying to abstain ultimately from online shopping, we must acknowledge that we bear as much responsibility as retailers when it comes to needing to be aware of how our actions would make a mark beyond ourselves. Not everything that piques our interest is a necessity that needs to be put in the shopping cart.