What Is Social Media Window Shopping?
It’s that thing, where guys you almost dated don’t actually want to speak to you, but still watch every single goddamned one of your Instagram stories.
This is about social media, culture, and the dynamics of people trying to meet their partners. But more than any of those things, it’s about self worth. I’m going to talk about how “window shopping” on social media, and the fact that we allow it to happen, are indicative of a self worth problem perpetuated by modern dating culture. I’m also going to tell you how to wash your life clean of window shoppers for fucking ever.
What is window shopping?
Window shopping is a term I use for those dudes you almost dated but didn’t really but kind of talked to for awhile or maybe got drinks with late one night because he was already out with friends so it was a “group thing” and he didn’t feel threatened or cornered by the idea of an actual date because he doesn’t actually want to date just one woman why would he when online dating is his own personal buffet of sex and attention that he never has to pay for? ANYWAY.
A person window shops you when they follow you on Instagram and view all your Instagram stories, but never actually have any direct contact with you of any kind. You might get a like. Maybe. But really all that’s happening is this person has full access to every part of your life you choose to share with people who actually give a shit about you, without ever having to exert effort to be a real part of your life at all. These people are bottom-feeding on the very easiest, least-effort-required way to consume you. Because they have an interest in consuming you, as long as it doesn’t require them to…you know, do anything.
Why do we allow this?
And yes I mean allow. Window shopping isn’t something that’s done to us, it’s something we allow. We (and I include iterations of myself here so don’t think I’m judging you, I am you) allow this for a very simple reason: Attention feels good. We are human, and human beings like attention, praise, adoration, love, and yes we enjoy Instagram likes. It’s why the entire app exists, we become addicted to approval—it’s fine. You can fight it if you want to, but unless you have a better alternative, social media is winning. How you choose to behave on social media is how you win.
We allow people, specifically people we at one point probably wanted to be involved with romantically, window shop us because it is attention, and it is a form of praise. These next sentences are going to sound like I’m shaming you, I’m not. I’m listing them here so that you know the mood I’m referencing. There is no shame, just truth, especially since by the end of this essay you’re going to block these asshats and move on with your life.
Has your inner monologue ever:
- been happy “he” looked at your story?
- saw significance in the fact that “he” looked at your story with no other evidence of significance than the very viewing of your story itself?
- posted something hoping he would see it?
- thought that if you posted the “right” thing, he’d get in touch?
- thought that if you posted the “right” thing, you’d be together?
- felt disappointed when he didn’t get in touch?
- felt frustrated because none of them ever get in touch?
- thought that being seen by window shoppers was better than nothing?
If any of this sounds familiar, welcome! You’re a human person, happy to have you. All of these thoughts are completely normal and natural, but because these thoughts also lead to or already indicate low self worth, we don’t have to keep having them. We can wash our brains and emotions of them forever.
Window shopping is not better than nothing. It is worse than nothing, because it’s not what you want. Not even close. And when we allow window shopping, we show ourselves that it’s okay to settle for something that’s not even remotely in the ballpark of what we want. If you want a relationship, and settle for Instagram story views, something needs to change, and thankfully, that change is really easy to implement.
What should you do about it?
BLOCK! That’s what you should do! You should block them! You have a block button at your very easy disposal, and you should block every last one of your window shoppers, right fucking now. You should revoke their access to you, because they haven’t earned it. You should remove them for your headspace as well, because they haven’t earned that either. (Remember, every time you see that they viewed your story, you’re thinking about them.) You should free your social media space and your own damned thoughts from someone who isn’t paying rent to be in either place. Window shoppers are taking your time, energy, and effort and they’re giving you .5 seconds of their viewing time in return while they’re on the toilet. Your self worth can do a whole lot better than that.
Again, no shame, BUT: Has your inner monologue ever:
- felt guilty for blocking someone because of how they might feel when they find out they’re blocked?
- not wanted to block someone because that means the end of that attention?
- figured it would just be easier to allow them to continue to follow you?
- worried about not being able to window shop THEM, too?
It’s totally okay to have thought these things, but now it’s time to ask yourself what they’re really saying to you, about you.
- Why are you putting their possibly disappointed feelings around being blocked over your own feelings of disappointment that they never actually speak to you or try to be in your life in a real way? Why are their feelings more important than yours?
- Why are you settling for the smallest morsel of attention possible? Do you want more? Then stop accepting less. You can’t get more from window shoppers. Here’s proof: Have you ever?
- Why are you afraid to take a very simple action that can give you back tenfold in self worth benefits by removing people who only want to maybe kind of see stuff you post? It’s actually much harder to continue feeling like shit.
- Why do you give time and headspace to someone who shows you, over and over again, that all you’re worth to them is an Instagram story view?
Is window shopping enough for you? It isn’t enough for me. The most minor morsels of attention aren’t enough for me, not when what I really want is my next relationship. Window shoppers are throwing us scraps, and we’re settling for them. This act of settling tells us, again and again, that we’re not worth more, and that we don’t deserve more. When we settle for window shoppers, we tell ourselves that’s all we’ll ever have. You were not put on this earth to settle for social media views from dudes who don’t remember your real name unless it’s in your Instagram handle. You’re here to have everything that you want. Stop settling for scraps. Block.
What have you lost?
Nothing. I know there will be resistance to blocking window shoppers because it feels like you’re losing something, like you’re losing attention. Self worth feels better than little teeny bits of attention. When you block window shoppers, you haven’t actually lost anything. You can’t lose someone if they weren’t in your life to begin with. And window shoppers are not actually in your damn life. Social media isn’t real. You are.
Really think about this, and don’t be ashamed of it because you’re reading this by yourself and no one can see you: Do you really want a relationship that started because you happened to post the “right” thing on Instagram that made someone “snap out” of the passive, zero-effort opinion they had of you and into a magical realm of “omg I want her immediately” land? First of all, that doesn’t happen, and second of all, you deserve a better story. Don’t be ashamed for ever having thought this, just find out what it feels like to be proud of yourself for blocking your goddamned window shoppers.
What do you gain?
Simply said, you gain self worth. And you don’t have to be ashamed of any time you “lost” not having that self worth in the past. Self worth doesn’t care when you show up, it’s just so happy to have you at the party. When you block window shoppers, you give yourself little examples of how good it can feel to have agency over your own self worth. Remember: You are in charge of who has access to you on social media. Make sure everyone deserves that access.
Social media is really good at getting us to settle for scraps. So is the modern dating world. When those two things team up, they eat our self worth on toast. Do not be the one who serves it to them. Take back your agency over who has access to you, take back your presence in the dating space. Define what it takes to be a part of your life, and know that anyone who can’t rise to those requirements isn’t meant to be with you anyway. Imagine if all of us did this, what it would look like to participate in this world. I know you’re worth more, and I want you to know it, too. Let me see us all rising to expect more from the digital and real worlds around us. Let me see our self worth shining, rather than settling for scraps in the dark. Let me see it.
Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, frequently. For a more positive take on singlehood than the one you’re probably familiar with, check out A Single Serving Podcast.