The introduction of the Instagram Shopping tab last year was devastating for my shopping habits. The function allows brands to feature items in their stories and posts, and by tapping on the product tag, users can purchase the item directly without having to even leave the Instagram app. Although I’ve always been rather easily persuaded to part with my money when it comes to products recommended by influencers, the Shopping feature essentially streamlines the whole process, saving me the trouble of having to google the item separately after seeing it on Instagram.
I was forced to rethink my shopping behaviours a few days ago, when the rack in one of my wardrobes collapsed under the weight of all my clothes/mistakes.
I then had to go through the process of folding everything up (to be put away until the wardrobe is repaired), during which I had a serious think about how I got here. It’s true that I already had an inclination to buy more clothes than I really need even before the introduction of the Shopping tab, but there’s no denying that my shopping habits have spiraled out of control since then. I briefly reflected on the reasons for why this could have happened.
Firstly, the function offers a vastly different experience from shopping at traditional retail or online shops, in that consumers no longer have to go through the (sometimes) tedious process of browsing through the full range of products available. Rather, items are presented by brands in individual posts, and users are offered an easy and convenient option to immediately buy anything that catches their eye. Making purchases without having to go through the ‘usual shopping process’ makes it feel less like shopping and more just like a part of my regular Instagram routine, and I’ve become so habituated to clicking on and paying for items within the app that sometimes it doesn’t even register that I’ve just bought something.
Secondly, I’ve always enjoyed following and interacting with some of my favorite shops on Instagram – some brands use the platform to offer advice on how to style their products, while others hold Instagram Live sessions where models try on new arrivals and viewers can ask questions before deciding whether to purchase anything. However, due to the nature of The Algorithm, this also means that I’m constantly being recommended clothing items and accessories on my feed, even from shops and brands that I don’t follow. Too often, I succumb to temptation without properly considering whether I really need any new clothes.
I’ve now committed to not make any more purchases until I’ve worn everything I own at least twice. I’ve also created a separate Instagram account specifically to follow my favorite brands, in the hopes of purging my main feed from such content. I even went on a (very brief) Instagram cleanse, where I temporarily deactivated my main account and removed the app from my phone to reduce temptation altogether.
My personal struggles with being a shopaholic aside – it seems many social media platforms are now eager to offer their users a seamless shopping experience. Apart from Instagram, Pinterest also offers the option to purchase items featured on its site. More recently, TikTok launched an in-app shopping function that allows users to shop for products related to a sponsored hashtag challenge. Going forward, I’m interested to see how retailers – especially those who are still struggling with the move from brick-and-mortar stores to online shops – will acclimatise to this trend.