Cyber Monday: From Sham To Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Dec 2, 2013

Cyber Monday – an extension of the traditional holiday shopping season kick-off – was supposedly in response to data that suggested a large increase in online shopping on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

However, according to Slate writer Will Oremus, that assumption is based off of a sham cooked up in 2005 by the National Retail Federation who said that the Monday after Thanksgiving was a big day for online sales.

"There wasn’t a lot of evidence to back this up at the time, but they put out a press release saying that Monday is one of the biggest online shopping days of the year and it was basically a self-fulfilling prophecy," Oremus told The Record's Marcie Sillman.

People get worried that if they miss the deals offered on Cyber Monday that they will be missing out, but that’s not true either, according to Oremus. He explained that retailers have stock to move and will continue to offer discounts throughout the shopping season.

Oremus thinks that eventually we will be able to do away with Cyber Monday: both the day and the term, which has some ironic roots. The word cyber comes from the Greek word for helmsman and was incorporating into English through the term cybernetics: the science of control using machines.

“I find it a funny coincidence that the retailers have adopted this term that originally meant 'control' to try to get us all to buy a bunch more stuff on Monday,” Oremus said. “It was going out of style, but Cyber Monday has kept this meaningless word in our lexicon. There’s almost nothing else today where you use the word cyber.”

One phrase that works for Oremus is the day after Thanksgiving. “'Black Friday' at least sounds appropriately apocalyptic,” he said.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.