2 snake plants, one with pot
3 blooming cacti
1 large cactus and basket
2 picture frames
2 flower-bird pictures
2 huge women and flower paintings
PILLOWS & DRAPES
3 ‘boho’ pillows
2 blue pillows
4 panels of damask drapes
1 pink office chair
1 “Renaissance” chair
1 green office chair
1 macrame wall hanging, custom
1 wishbone decorative item
1 candle holder
This is an itemized list of the things I have purchased on Facebook Marketplace over the last few months. I am a late comer to this digital smorgasbord of things old and new, hilarious and cool, and just plain weird. When a cousin of mine said “it’s so addicting” after a post showing off my latest purchases, I thought she was being a bit dramatic, but then I too was pulled into the marketplace abyss.
When sourcing items for my home during lockdown, I was checking the site 15-20 times a day. A bit much? Yes, but keep in mind that items come and go with impressive speed and in the absence of bricks-and-mortar shopping opportunities, it’s an excellent option.
I have come to learn a lot about this digital space, which is not unlike a dating site or app. How? Profile pictures are provided, as are alluring blurbs to garner the attention of the viewer. Most dating apps don’t advertise the sale price of a date or the purveyor of the profile, but they are both competitive, fast-moving spaces. Digital dating is a market, a meat market as some people used to say, a gross term that conjures up the buying and selling of animals. Many of us are vegetarians, but we still partake in the advertising of our wares and selecting those of others on these sites, correct? Food for thought.
The staggering array of items kills me, and I’m often left wondering who made the decision to produce some of the strange things listed. For instance, was there a debate around the boardroom table in Etobicoke, Ontario, headquarters of the famed Canadian leisurewear brand Northern Reflections that is making a comeback, about the production of adult- sized Care Bear t-shirts?
The tiny beaded bag featured on the picture associated with this blog also astounds me in ways that are perhaps a little mean but also rooted in wonder. Someone decided to make this wee thing and sell it, using an HB pencil with festive winter designs for scale. Who purchased it? I’m kind of dying to know.
And what of the Mikhail Baryshnikov shadow box, with its three items? A small headshot, a reproduced performance ticket, and a mid-air leaping image are carefully arranged for a dramatic, intimate effect. Was it home crafted or made in Taiwan, the tiny island nation colonized by the Dutch, Japanese, and now China that has long produced consumer goods?
I wonder who originally received this gift and whether it made the recipient pirouette down the hallway instead of walk. Was the shadow box placed on a desk or fastened to a wall?
Curious about the origins of shadow boxes, I discovered that they were display cases presented to members of the military upon retirement to house honorable badges, pins, flags, and other rewards for their service. Veterans would be given a shadow box to commemorate their final rank and sacrifice, a totem to take home with them to be showcased and protected. This practice dates to pre-modern sailing culture when the belongings and symbolic items in the boxes were used to protect retiring sailors.
It was considered bad luck if the shadows of these men hit the ground before they did and by carrying their belongings, a metaphorical shadow of themselves, enclosed within the box they could ensure they touched land before their shadows. Another source indicates that the boxes were returned to the men after they touched land in ritualized ceremony. I daresay that few of us who’ve poked fun at these crafty décor items know anything about their fascinating history.
This reminds us of the life that each of the items listed on Marketplace have prior to their appearance on Facebook. We love our material possessions and often imbue them with profound meaning, which can poke through the surface when it comes time to shed or sell them. So, why do people sell these things? The reasons span the commercial and personal gamut, and include:
1. Decorative items that are “like new” but no longer go with the owner’s design plans
2. Moving, themselves or family members (most often ageing parents)
3. Entrepreneurial craftspeople who are selling their homemade items
4. Entrepreneurial low-level business folks who want to connect FB folks to their Instagram accounts, which feature various second hand boho or antique-oriented ware
5. Flipping the item because they don’t like it anymore or it’s too big for their space
6. The item(s) is of no value to the owner and they give it away
7. Plant propagators who divide and conquer on the regular
8. The item is a mystery to the person who owns it and they want to get rid of it (“I don’t know what it is” often accompanied by a reduced asking price)
9. Car traders are another staple
10. People who have moved through different body sizes and no longer fit the item
What wild, interesting items have you come across or purchased on FB Marketplace?
What would you include in your shadow box?