Lightbulb Moments: detoxing from Amazon

I just know it in my bones that some of you are going to grin at the title, so here goes. Amazon blocked my account for numerous issues last week and at first I panicked, particularly because the blockage extended to my Kindle Unlimited and Audible subscriptions. While I sorted things out and sifted through several unpleasant emails, I sat and stewed over the situation, furious at Amazon but even angrier at myself for becoming so dependent on it. Addictions these days come in digital form, not just chemical.

Not having a car and with the onslaught of the home office and social distancing at the beginning of 2020, online shopping (including groceries) became my primary option for shopping. My regular supermarket delivery service was sometimes so overwhelmed with online orders that the waiting list was a week long, so I used Amazon Fresh, the logic here being resorting to any option that would keep me away from the supermarkets and could deliver on the same day or within 24 hours. For the most part, the service was reliable albeit more expensive than the average supermarket prices. Definitely not budget-friendly, but in a pinch it would do. Ugh, way too easy to fall into the rabbit hole.

Then came the debacle with the account blockage. I didn’t mind at all because there was nothing that I needed immediately, not even in the near future. I just keep adding things to my shopping list as bookmarks and future reference. Whether I will actually purchase them is doubtful, but it’s a mind game that acts as a placebo. It works for the most part and the best result of the entire retail therapy detox is that I have saved a lot of money, and my credit card thanks me immensely.

Amazon thrives on convenience and laziness to actually go out to the stores. They slap on a hefty percentage on the final price, and because we have become so damn complacent, we don’t give it a second thought anymore. If you are over 50 and grew up without Amazon, Kindle and Audible, you wonder what the hell went wrong in our lives that we ditched all the independent trips to the stores and simply sat at our desks and clicked away. I had a colleague who was (is) vehemently against Amazon and would cast me dirty looks for placing an order even for the office. I get it now, I totally get it. After eight days of complete detachment from this retail black hole, I realised that I really don’t need Amazon in my life as much as I have been using it.

First of all, I can source many other things elsewhere for significantly less. The only thing I really missed was my Kindle Unlimited access, because there really is no other comparable service out there. I keep waiting for Apple Books to catch up but so far no dice. There are some new platforms here in Germany that are just breaking into the market but they are still lightyears away from Kindle Unlimited. I can live with that.

It’s horrifying to see how dependent we have become on online services, not all of them by choice. Yes, there is the convenience factor, and these past pandemic years have definitely proven that the digital world does have its advantages, but what does that say about our (in)ability to take care of business the old fashioned way and actually talk to others? I keep running into more and more (younger) people with 0 people skills, can’t look anyone in the eye, and are clueless about stringing two sentences together to introduce themselves or break the ice. Thirty years ago we would have been crucified for this behaviour both at home and the academe, let alone the workplace! It is no wonder then why so many older generation managers are frustrated, grumpy and generally angry at the world – it’s because this was the last generation that clawed their way up the hard way – networking face-to-face, making sure people remembered you as a person and not your IP address, Instagram account, website or Linked-In profile.

So before I digress into another social media rant (will save it for another day), let me say that I feel wonderful after my Amazon detox. I’m not completely off the hook, and probably won’t be for as long as we are still in the eye of the pandemic storm, but it’s something to think about. Think about the generations of people before us who didn’t even have electricity, let alone online banking, and our own childhood was spent with children on the playgrounds or on the streets, so why on earth are we succumbing to virtual realities?

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