A relatable addiction

Monday Musing

[ Karyir Riba ]

Don’t know whether it was the same for everyone, or if it was just the school that I went to, but the most common topic for debates was always ‘Television – boon or bane?’

This was about two decades ago, in elementary school, when neither our teachers nor we knew that we would live in a time where a more complicated and arguable entity would take the world by storm.

The internet, my friends, is undeniably the most debatable subject in existence. If we were to discuss internet today, the discussion would go way beyond its being a boon or a bane.

Internet is so intricately woven into human life that even the thought of living without it might sound ridiculous and unrealistic; so naturally blended that it would be unendurable to live without. In fact, if one would analyse the behaviour of any internet user after taking away internet from him/her, a huge behavioural change will be noticed. He/she will get restless and cranky, there will be lack of concentration, anxiety, and many such notable behavioural changes.

We do not need an extensive study or survey to observe these findings. Simply try it at home on any family member who is an avid internet user.

I like to call it internet addiction. Of course I haven’t coined the term, as it has been in existence for some time now, but there is indeed an argument of whether it is a real thing or not. It is also a controversy whether one can be addicted to the internet in the same way as they can be to substances (drugs).

According to an online article, like addictive behaviours, excessive internet use has been shown to release dopamine in the brain. This means that people effectively feel a “high” when engaged online; but it also means that they can feel “withdrawal symptoms” when they’re offline. The term itself – internet addiction or internet addiction disorder – is controversial and is not currently listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the guide that practitioners use in diagnosing mental health conditions.

Human beings do every kind of thing on the internet. The internet provides all kinds of information and knowledge, and most importantly, it provides social media platforms to humans, which they use extensively to share their talents, and sometimes, well, their lack of talent too. Millions and millions of people engage with these online social media platforms every day. However, the most used online platform that takes away the cake must most certainly be online shopping.

Online shopping is a miniscule fragment in the vast universe of the internet, but it holds such a stature that online shopping itself can be an addiction.

I can almost see all you online shoppers nodding in unison, agreeing that it surely is an addiction. The more you try to keep yourself away from shopping online for random things (most of the time for things you don’t even need), the more you get drawn into it. Advertisements that keep popping up do not help either. Earlier, it only felt like your internet was keeping a watch on your search history to bombard you with advertisements of what you were searching for; now it seems like they can read your thoughts. If you randomly think of something today, tomorrow it appears as advertisements on whatever application you open on your device. It’s not even shocking anymore.

Online shopping has come as a boon to many, but introverts like me can’t be thankful enough for whoever came up with the idea. According to Wikipedia, English entrepreneur Michael Aldrich was a pioneer of online shopping in 1979. His system connected a modified domestic TV to a real-time transaction processing computer via a domestic telephone line.

I remember my parents used to order clothing and other items from a book with ‘Burlington’ written on it. I was a little girl, so I cannot tell you about what the process of ordering was, but I do remember this yellow raincoat with black wooden buttons that I wanted so bad. I was ecstatic when it arrived, and hence the memory remained, I guess.

I don’t know what Mr Aldrich must have done in 1979, but as a millennial, the first experience of online shopping that I came across was through this ‘Burlington book’ and a telephone back in the ’90s. Today, because of internet connectivity, online shopping has become so easy and convenient that the smallest to the biggest and the cheapest to the costliest items are available to us right at out fingertips.

The best part – there are no hassles to put on something nice, get ready, look socially acceptable, or meet people. Just from the comfort of your home you can buy anything that you desire.

There are, obviously, downsides to everything. Online shopping is no exception. First and foremost, your online shopping habits should be in tandem with your bank account; otherwise, it might take a toll on your finances.

Then there are scammers who post their ads. You buy from them, and they dupe you after taking your money. This one time I had ordered a very cool shirt that I found for Rs 1,200. I was super excited because such shirts would usually cost more than Rs 2-3,000 in brands like Zara or M&S. What they sent me was a cheap looking brick-colour sari. My mails were not replied to and they didn’t have a contact number. I was furious, but my house help was very happy because she wears a sari and I don’t.

Online shopping can be so addictive that you could spend hours and hours meaninglessly window-shopping on various sites/apps. You get so busy surfing and wish-listing things. If it were a job that paid, I would be rich. Since it is not, I have to be wary about my bank account and proceed with caution.

You see, dear readers, there are two types of online shoppers. Normal online shoppers select an item, put it in their carts, check out, and wait for their orders to arrive. Then there are the legends. They can’t be that basic. They need drama.

When a few things from their wish-list earn the privilege of getting into their shopping carts, the process doesn’t end there. They wait. After keeping their products for days in their shopping carts, they finally make a decision one fine 3 am that they really need it. They make a compromise with their bank accounts, with a promise that this would be their last purchase for the month. And then it happens, and they type in those three magical numbers to eventually place their orders.

Which type could you relate to?

A few years back, not all shopping sites delivered to every place in our state. We had to order our purchase to the nearest possible address and use some other mode of transport to get it to us. But over the last 6-7 years, online shopping has become easier. Today, we can receive anything in a matter of 3-10 days, from any corner of the country. Having said that, some sellers can be least concerned about their customer service, though. My order from Mizoram took almost a month to arrive. This was not years back but just a couple of months back.

The waiting period is an ordeal in itself. Only an online shopper can understand the joy that text message gives you. That text message which reads, ‘Your order is out for delivery,’ gives you such unexplainable immense happiness every single time.

Today, we can see every kind of item being purchased online, from electronic items to clothing, shoes, and even expensive jewellery. The list of items is endless. This has affected the local shopkeepers, but the customers are not at fault here. They will obviously be drawn to the best offer they get. After all, saving is a learned skill, and customers have the right to decide where they want to put their money.