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I have a new problem: I can't stop shopping online | Zoe Williams


went out with a guy once who was mad into the Frankfurt School Marxist Theodor Adorno. He was insistent that you had to read Adorno six or seven times before you could even hope to understand him. He emphasised this so much that I felt it would be a terrible idea to read him, in case I understood him on the second or even first attempt. You would think that splitting up presented the perfect time to try, but I had two or three thousand other ways I wanted to celebrate first.

So you will have to accept this mangled precis of what Adorno thought about shopping, on the understanding that it was mediated through the mind of a man who fully enjoyed not comprehending it: the reason we love buying stuff is that we mistake the power dynamic. We get the thing we want and all we have to give in exchange is money, the value of which is metaphorical, symbolic. We experience this as our own raw power, in defiance of our rational minds, which know the boot is on the other foot.

This is 10 times worse online. The thing simply arrives at the door. The exchange that went before it didn’t even have the shape of a transaction or remind us of money; it was just a bunch of numbers that, most likely, were already on our computer. It is amazing that we have any continence around online shopping. It is amazing we are not buying pointless stuff all day long.

I need to list everything that has arrived at my door today, because the act of confessing to it will make me feel less guilty: one pack of sticky labels (no reason); one SodaStream canister (environmentally friendly?); magic straws that turn milk chocolatey (for myself); three books I won’t read; anchovies; plastic storage containers; another book I might read; tiny plastic naked ladies with which to ironically decorate cocktails. I can feel the raw power coursing through me.

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