Why are we scrolling?
Last week, I gobbled up Sarah Wilson’s latest book, This One Wild and Precious Life.
In it, she asks many beautiful questions. One stood out:
Why are we scrolling?
Climate change is here. Mother Earth is on fire. Giraffes, koalas, and ice bears are on the brink of extinction… and we’re scrolling. Absorbed in our devices, we scroll through Instagram, where influencers wear T-shirts saying, There Is No Planet B while holding a plastic cup filled with green juice in their hands.
Humanity is like Sleeping Beauty on steroids.
Or maybe it’s just me.
I mean, I’ve always shielded myself from the news for decades. I justified my self-inflicted ivory tower sitch by telling myself, It’s too heavy, I can’t even… I like to keep my mind clean to focus on what’s here and now.
Somehow, I thought that by being spiritual, I'd get a pass out of it all. As in, if I don’t look at this mess we’re in, it’s not happening.
Sarah busts this I’m-too-spiritual-to-read-the-news-excuse. She quotes Marianne Williamson, who argues that...
Being spiritual and being political are not mutually exclusive. We can be both spiritual and political. The times demand it.
How can I any longer justify my adolescent self-interest? Is this me not wanting to grow up?
Instead of truly caring for others, I’m sucked into a selfish wheel of self-care, spiritual bypassing, and — wait for it — consumerism.
Now, I’m not a big shopper.
I like to keep my possessions light, and I do my best to live sustainably. I don’t buy coffee in single-use cups (which take more than 300 years to break down, it at all). I never throw food out. (Apparently, household food waste is a massive culprit in climate change. Reducing the amount of food we toss is among the top three things we can do to help the planet!) Plus, I recycle.
But, and here’s the but, I still have a habit of regularly (every two or three months) buying new clothes. Not much, but it adds up. And the fashion industry is, unfortunately, the second-most polluting industry on the planet. Right after Big Oil. So, yeah.
When Sarah wrote about her minimalistic approach of wearing her clothes out to the point of breakage (because donating our old stuff doesn't help much — charity shops can only sell 5% of what we donate; the rest goes to landfill!), I felt inspired.
She dedicates a whole chapter to her #buylesslivemore approach, where she outlines her radically minimalist practices. Clothes-wise, it goes something like this: for 12-15 months at a time, she buys nothing. When she’s down to three knickers, she considers getting some new ones but then delays the gratification of new underwear for another week or two.
Because shopping begets more shopping. And so Sarah goes hiking instead.
After a 12-month stint of no shopping, she eventually heads to a mall, where she picks up a new bra, a quality sweater or pair of pants, a pair of running shoes, and maybe a new vegetable knife. All in under 90 minutes.
Two times, her credit card company called on her way home, suspecting fraud and verifying that it was indeed her who made the purchase.
This story made me think about how much precious life-time I am wasting scrolling through Pinterest, pinning fitness models wearing high-waisted leggings and cute crop-tops. Writing shopping lists with items I want to add to my well-curated capsule wardrobe. Ordering said items from Zalando, trying them on, then deciding it maybe wasn’t for me after all and schlepping it all back to the post office.
When I could, in fact, go hiking.
Or call my mom. Or read another book.
So I figured, why not just stop?
Stop the scrolling, stop the online shopping (real shops give me anxiety), stop the social media consumption that tells me my life should look flashier and fancier than it actually is.
I think we’ve all been (to some degree) deluded into this neoliberal way of thinking, where having (status, wealth, power) equals happiness, when, in reality, being (at home in ourselves) equals true happiness.
But now, to my experiment. (Cos I want to see this as a gentle experiment, not another rigid, self-flagellating rule I place upon myself.)
Inspired by Sarah’s true minimalism (“we can’t buy our way to less!”) and this delightful opinion piece in the New York Times, I’m determined to also give a year of no shopping a go.
This time for real.
I had thought about not shopping for clothes many times before, and even (half-heartedly) attempted it in 2014.
I remember a sleek Tiger of Sweden crossbody bag ending my stint too early. (A black leather bag I’d sell again in 2017. Maybe that’s why it took Steve Jobs eight years to get a couch — he didn’t want to buy anything he might not want or like later on.)
Anyway, I’m determined to see how I can approach this challenge with compassion.
I’ve made a list of essentials (groceries, toiletries, candles, etc.) I’m “allowed” to buy, another list of things I won’t buy (clothes, books, furniture, etc.), and a list of approved items (gifts for others, a hiking backpack if and when I'd actually need it, as well as baby stuff and maternity clothes. Again, only if needed and then mostly second hand. ;))
And that is that.
I’m starting my experiment on March 1st and plan to do this for at least 12 months.
Care to join me? Send me an email and tell me you’re in! I’d appreciate a running buddy. It’s almost like having an AA sponsor and community. It makes the abstinence easier. (Not like I’ve ever been through AA, but this is how I’d imagine it to be.)
Oh, and check out Sarah’s book for more beautiful and thought-provoking questions! (This is not a paid sponsorship, I promise.)
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