Black Friday and Cyber Monday: shopping days that millions of people anxiously wait all year for. As you might imagine, these shopping “holidays” aren’t really our cup of tea. Literally a day after everyone gathers and expresses what they’re thankful for, they’re fighting old women and small children for shit they don’t need that’s only slightly newer than the shit they already have. Why though?
A man purposefully shot an 18-year-old boy, and accidentally shot a 12-year-old girl on Black Friday here in Alabama at a mall in Birmingham. Police came and shot the guy, only to now say that the man they killed wasn’t the shooter. So three people shot, and one dead, in a mall that my wife and I have been, and none of them were the shooter. This brings another meaning to “black” Friday. All told, there have been 16 deaths recorded and 118 injuries (likely many more injuries from people who got their ‘deals’ and left without filing reports) while shopping on Black Friday. These must be some killer bargains, am I right? Again, why do we put ourselves in this situation?
The answer is because of something called the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaptation…stick with me here….which is: the tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. The theory is that there are three types of the hedonic treadmill:
- Shifting adaptation levels – this occurs when a person experiences a shift to the previously normal level until returning back to normal. Example: Mrs. RRR receives a raise. We are both happy for a short amount of time, but soon will become used to the larger salary and go back to our previous level of happiness.
- Desensitization – pretty self-explanatory, but someone becomes desensitized to stimulus changes, and are no longer affected as much. Example: someone lives in a war zone and has become desensitized to destruction around them, and may no longer react the same way to other major life events such as death or serious injury.
- Sensitization – an increase in hedonic response from continuous exposure. Example: A shopper constantly buying things has become more sensitive to the positive emotional response that purchasing items brings.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day all feed into the third type: sensitization. The original title of this article was: The Fleeting Feeling of Fulfillment Found in Financial Failures (try saying that 5 times fast), ultimately we decided to go with a more ‘click-bait’ title. But that’s exactly what it is, a fleeting feeling of happiness when you buy something. It could be anything: a car, a dress, shoes, bicycles, investments, literally anything. You actually become addicted to the sensation when your brain drops dopamine and endorphins into your system. Black Friday is like the Super Bowl of shopping, so even the idea of getting great deals causes smaller dopamine dumps. The adrenaline rush of searching for your next prey while racing against others in the crowd to claim your trophy. Which at the end is a pack of 1,000 thread count Egyptian sheets and a kids toy that farts for no explicable reason.
The real problem began when you let this feeling dictate your life choices, because desensitization and sensitization can straight up redirect your motivation, like a true addiction. Speaking of addiction, you want to hear the symptoms you may notice from someone who is addicted to shopping, according to the American Addiction Center:
- Spending more than they can afford
- Shopping as a reaction to feeling angry or depressed
- Shopping as a way to feel less guilty about a previous shopping spree (LOL!)
- Harming relationships due to spending or shopping too much
- Losing control of shopping behavior
Jeez, is it just me or did they just describe pretty much every typical American? Last year, the average person racked up over $1000 in debt holiday shopping. Hell, some people are still paying that debt off, and have now tacked more on there just to prove how much they care about someone. That, my friends, is marketing dollars hard at work.
There are a few ways to avoid the traps of falling into the addictive cycle of shopping:
- Park your ass at home. Seriously, if you eliminate the stimulant, then your chances of falling prey are much lower.
- Eliminate online distractions. Unsubscribe from emails, block shopping sites, don’t store your credit card information. Essentially, you need to make shopping online as inconvenient as possible.
- If you have to go shopping (you don’t), then wear headphones. Christmas music is slower paced so you’ll move slower and end up spending more time in the store. Christmas music also makes you nostalgic. So, while reminiscing about the good times you had as a child, you’ll likely feel the need to compensate for your perceived inadequacies as a parent, and buy more stuff. Sorry, got a little dark there. But seriously, wear some headphones. Rock, Rap, Dubstep, anything +100 BPM should keep you moving.
Christmas has become much like every other “holiday” in America: a corrupt version of something that started out as genuine and good and became bastardized by corporations and marketers. We know we are not the norm here, but we don’t like gifts for Christmas. We don’t like giving them, and we don’t like receiving them. More likely than not, the gifts we buy suck, and I’m only saying that because statistically speaking, the gifts we receive suck so I assume ours are perceived the same way.
On a lighter note, we’ve asked our families that if they insist on getting us stuff, that they give us consumable items like: wine, food, beer, olive oil, spices, etc. This way we don’t have to be saddled with a useless item that we have to keep out of guilt, and the buyer can typically spend less. It’s a win-win as far as we’re concerned.
Do you have any hacks for gift-giving or receiving?