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Has Giftophobia had increased or decreased due to the pandemic, and will it continue in the future?

Has Giftophobia had increased or decreased due to the pandemic, and will it continue in the future?

GiftAFeeling Employee |

Giftophobia and Anxiety in Gift-Giving

The term "phobia" can be classified as a type of anxiety disorder and it refers to an exaggerated, persistent and intense fear of objects, animals, persons, or situations. Some phobias are unique and special. For example, there are several holiday-related phobias that we don't usually know about: Doronophobia, fear of receiving and opening gifts; Heortophobia, a fear of holidays or celebrating events; Decidophobia, a fear of making wrong decisions. Over the years, a phobia called giftophobia has attracted people's attention. Giftophobia refers to the fear and anxiety of giving gifts. This happens to people when they are struggling to choose what to buy and the fear of giving the wrong gifts to their families and friends. Gifts can help us define our relationship and how much we value it. When both gift-givers reach this value, it means that they agree to their related terms. However, people usually expected that the gifts they are giving are equal to the value of the gifts that they are receiving. Researchers cited different expectations among givers can cause anxiety.

Gifting is a two-way process: givers and recipients are equally important in human interaction and hence one cannot happen without the other. Gifting plays an important role in strengthening interpersonal relationships. Besides, the act of gift-giving comes in with lots of societal expectations. Gifting can be a symbol of power. Sometimes people give gifts to ensure their social status and rank in the social structures. Gifts can serve multiple purposes: pleasing the recipient, connecting a larger social network, signaling commitment, trust-building, and fulfilling social norms. It also partially indicated and reflected the social role of the giver. According to society's gender expectations, Men were characterized by assertiveness, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression, whereas women were characterized by submissive, indecisive, caring, and dependence. Hence, women should be the ones who spend more time choosing gifts and they are more likely to be socialized as shoppers than men. However, a study conducted by Kay, Charles, and Pamela Kiecker (2001) found that men's participation in gift exchange was incongruent with society's expectations of gender roles. In other words, when it comes to gift exchange, men behave similarly to women in that their gifts focused on communication, appreciation, gratitude, and affection.

Researchers also examined how the role of recipients and their perceptions could influence givers' behaviors. Based on different social roles, such as in-laws, fathers, grandparents, children, same-gender friends, they categorized them into either "difficult" or "easy" recipients. Those who were labeled as "difficult" recipients were often older or indirect relatives were difficult to please and met their expectations. Gift givers may become anxious because those recipients tried to prevent them to enact the social role they want through the gift exchange process. Therefore, people often imposed pressure on themselves to select the most appropriate gifts that reflected their social roles. This self-imposed pressure could cause mental and physical stress. Hence, people with heightened self-awareness will feel anxious about giving gifts because they are afraid that inappropriate gifts will cause embarrassment or be judged by others, especially when the giving process is visible to everyone beyond the recipient. Self-conscious people are often associated with anxiety and nervousness as they worried about how others perceive them. Impression management theory stated that people want to maintain impressions that are congruent with the presentation that they want to present in the public. A study has found that adolescents and young adults have a strong desire for impression management because they wanted to be accepted by their peer group. Besides, they also found that gift-giving motives were to avoid negative impressions and social rejection. Additionally, to strengthen and enhance positive impressions, givers will buy "branded" and costly gifts. Therefore, givers might spend an enormous amount of time choosing the "perfect" gifts to seek the approval and acceptance of others. The fear of not finding the perfect gift can force us to give more than we can.

How does pandemic changes the anxiety of gift-giving?

The pandemic has changed the way we give gifts. Christmas is around the corner; Gift-giving makes this season feel a bit brighter and it seems that gift-giving emphasis more on reconnection with friends and family. Conscious gift-giving means giving thoughtful and meaningful gifts that will last for a lifetime. It also includes the act of giving eco-friendly and sustainable gifts to others – "it is about the giver shopping their values and gifting in line with the way they see the world". Instead of caring about how others think about you and your gifts, give gifts that express your intention. During the pandemic, people have a greater emphasis on self-care. Research is done by GSK Consumer health care shows that majority of Europeans are more likely to consider their health in day-to-day decision-making and consult family doctors and pharmacists more often. People have now acknowledged the importance of taking care of their health, as well as the health of their loved ones. As a result, the attention has shifted to self-care essentials. People pay less attention to whether the gifts reflected the social roles of the givers or the impression that givers convey in the public. A recent study has examined prosocial behavior was associated with positive mental health and community attachment. Their study found that the most frequent prosocial behavior adolescents engaged in were providing support to their friends, relatives, and neighbors and giving quarantined gifts. The more frequently they engaged in prosocial acts, the more they understand their role in social responsibilities. In other words, adolescents learn the importance of helping others during the pandemic, and such helps them develop a sense of purpose and connectedness within the community. Besides, engaging in prosocial acts can foster positive affect and emotional well-being. Gifts are an emotional booster and gift-giving will increase the sense of the meaning of one's life.

The meaning of life consists of three components: purpose, significance, and coherence. In order to make your life meaningful, one should acknowledge that having goals and things that you want to achieve in life, understand everyone has their worth, value and realize that things happen for reasons.Research indicated that prosocial behaviors are an important source in enhancing the meaning of life. Sense of belonging and the preciousness of life are factors that people focus on more especially during the pandemic. Gift-giving can foster social connectedness and as well serves as a potential indicator to motivate people to see their lives as meaningful and worth living.

It thus seems that people are more concerned about self-care, thoughtfulness and genuinely asking themselves why they are purchasing the gifts and who are they supporting during the pandemic. People may have begun to realize the importance of social connectedness and hence pay attention to the happiness and warmth that gifts can bring to them, rather than being competitive and leaving a "good" impression. Will giftophobia continue in the future is still an unknown. However, what can be confirmed is in times of great uncertainty, people who are perceived to be vulnerable, lonely, and depressed need the most support from others. Indeed, there is an increase in prosociality and mutual helping behavior among the communities in the current pandemic. Gift-giving has become a way to deliver love and care to others. The purpose of gift-giving is simple and pure which is to show that you are being remembered and being thought of during this difficult time.

Megan Lee
Psychology Blogger,
GiftAFeeling Inc.

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