We've all shopped while sad, lonely, depressed, hungry, grumpy, angry, and all of the above. And often, a new pair of shoes really does provide that jolt of adrenaline we needed to get on with the day. Plenty of research shows that buying things provides a mini high, and that wearing something pretty and new makes us feel happier and more confident — not that we need scientists to prove this, because we know it firsthand.
But a new study published earlier this year in the Journal of Consumer Research and discussed today in the Atlantic shows a dark side to the psychology of shopping: It can be an isolating experience, and thus contribute to overall feelings of loneliness. Acquiring material goods for oneself is a pretty self-absorbed activity, after all. If you've sacrificed an afternoon figuring out how to afford a certain handbag instead of hanging out with a living, breathing human, then you are on a lonely road, my friend. From Rik Pieters, who authored the study:
People experience loneliness when their need for relatedness is frustrated. There is reason to believe that materialism can “crowd out” social relationships (Lane 2000) and thereby frustrate the need for relatedness and contribute to loneliness.
Much of Pieters's article is populated with scientific lingo like that, but here's the gist: In addition to taking time and money away from more fulfilling social activities, certain types of materialism can lead to a dangerous kind of self-judgment wherein we value ourselves based on our possessions rather than our relationships (and compare ourselves to others accordingly). That means you'll never truly be able to enjoy that pair of shoes you bought, because someone else will inevitably have nicer ones and make you feel just as pathetic as you did before you bought them (or maybe even worse, because now you're poorer).
In Pieters's words:
Valuing material possessions as a measure of success and as a medicine for happiness were associated with increases in loneliness over time, and loneliness in its turn was associated with increases in these subtypes of materialism. Jointly, this forms the vicious side of the materialism-loneliness cycle, which perpetuates once it is formed.
The same can be said for turning to food or drugs or alcohol instead of what really makes most people happy: other people. The same is true of any psychological behavior where we displace our problems instead of finding a sustainable solution.
Anyone who thinks a new pair of shoes will actually help them confront a difficult boss, dump a boyfriend, or find a date is terribly deluded. What material things do — sometimes — is help you help yourself. Fun new shoes aren't going to do a damn thing unless you put them on and walk out the door. But they might provide extra motivation for you to do so.
Most Viewed Stories
Mary-Kate Olsen Strains Every Muscle in Her Face in an Attempt to Smile
The Fashion Executive Who Doesn’t Wear Underwear on Dates
25 Famous Women on Being Alone
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Prince George Has No Time for Justin Trudeau’s High Fives
How Angelina Jolie Won the First Big Battle in Her Divorce
It’s Time to Get Over Your White Feelings and Start Taking Action for Black Lives
Madame Clairevoyant: Horoscopes for the Week of September 26
2009 Called — It Wants Its Vogue-Versus-Bloggers Fight Back.
The Will & Grace Reunion Was Intensely Documented for Social Media
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.