the problem with online shopping

I’ve put my finger on one reason I’m overwhelmed. Because most of the shopping we do (perforce) is online or at the very least mailed, the Philangelus family is essentially throwing our gifts over the wall. We select something, click on it, pay by credit card, and then wait for a shipping notification. Within a month, we’ll receive a thank-you note from the gifted party.

It’s all divorced from an actual gift. At no point do I hold in my hand the fleece throw or the Mona Lisa or the pair of pajamas. I have not baked the English muffin assortment. (Thank heaven, I didn’t raise the goat.) I’m not even handing over cash for this gift, but most of the time typing in a 16-digit number or a password. We do not wrap the gift, bring the gift, or see a look of joy on the recipient’s face when s/he opens the gift.

In reality, I’m giving the idea of a gift rather than a gift itself.

This is emblematized by the gift card, where you give the recipient the idea of a place to shop but nothing more. Or my second favorite, the gift of a digital audiobook or digital music, where at no point is any of this tangible to either the giver or the recipient.

Maybe that’s why I like the idea so much of a goat. If no one ever sees the gift, maybe it’s better it go to someone else entirely.

For the most part, I have no choice in the matter. I live hundreds of miles from many family members and many friends. But I can’t help but envy folks like Ivy who create with their hands and make something meaningful. She said in episode 6 of her Knit Spirit podcast that knitting is love. I think that’s what we all want to give at Christmas or Hanukkah, and would rather do that than a gift-card to Target.

What overwhelms me, I guess, is doing all this work for a bunch of ideas when we’ll never see the results.


  1. Jason Block

    It’s the flip side of technology. I DESPISE going into the mall and fighting the crowds, etc. But, yes, the gift card and online gift is impersonal. But I try to make the gift as personal as possible.

  2. Ivy

    Thanks for the bees. 🙂

    I’m with Jason, the crowds just drive me nuts. I can’t deal with that. So I mail order or I knit.

    The funny thing is, I find people really “get” the gift, especially a hand made gift, if it’s outside of the holiday season and not near their birthday. I like knitting “just because” gifts, because I think that makes people feel more loved and more special.