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Published December 14th 2017

‘Tis the Season to Give…to Yourself

What social media says about the self-gifting trend.

The holidays seem to revolve around giving to others, whether it’s buying gifts for family and friends, donating to charity, or volunteering by doling out soup at a soup kitchen. But the holidays are also a prime time to give to yourself, treating yourself to brand new shoes, geeky gadgets, lavish retreats, and other goods.

Tom and Donna from “Parks and Recreation” created Treat Yo Self Day — but why limit it to one day? Why not extend it to the entire holiday season?

According to an analyst group that spoke with CNBC, shoppers are self-gifting more in 2017, buying items like sweaters, boots, smartphones, cookware, and athletic apparel. What’s driving this behavior?

By looking at the conversation on social media, we can see how the self-gifting trend has grown over the years, unearth the reasons why people shop for themselves, and discover what they buy for themselves.


The raw volume of the self-gifting discussion has significantly increased over the years, going from 6.9k total posts in 2010 to 63.4k total posts in 2016. Using hashtags like #treatyoself, #sorrynotsorry, and #merrychristmastome, many more people discuss buying gifts for themselves now than just six years ago.

It’s not just the raw volume that has increased for the self-gifting discussion. We looked at what percentage of the holiday shopping discussion self-gifting comprised, and that number has increased by 8.7 percent from 2010 to 2017.

Not even former teen pop princess Hilary Duff can resist turning her Christmas shopping for family and friends into a shopping spree for herself.

Plenty of other consumers share snarky tweets about treating themselves during the holidays. While some express a sense of guilt or imply that spending more time shopping for oneself is problematic, others unabashedly treat it as a gift they deserve.

However, that conversation is also becoming more negative over the years. While positive sentiment is driven by people splurging on themselves, negative sentiment is driven by frustration with crowds at stores and online shopping. People are also displeased that they end up buying for themselves and nothing for others, unintentionally.

The top hashtags on Twitter reveal a mix of attitudes toward shopping for yourself. Some do so with resignation, using #sigh, perhaps deeming themselves selfish. Others are shameless, using #sorrynotsorry. Most treat it lightheartedly, using humorous hashtags like #oops, #fail, and #whoops.

What do people treat themselves to?

Looking at the top items people treat themselves to, most people discuss buying themselves food for themselves during holidays. Food makes up 33 percent share of voice.

The other splurge items are fairly standard: clothing, phones, bags, computers, cameras, and makeup. The desire to buy oneself phones has increased greatly from 2010 to 2017, growing from 9 percent share of voice to 19 percent share of voice. As hype for the iPhone continues to build, more and more people discuss buying phones for themselves.


The holidays are a time to be generous, and that applies to being generous to yourself. While much of holiday advertising is geared towards shopping for others, brands can take note of the prominent growth of self-gifting (like Groupon launching Self-Gifting Day). Brands can understand changing consumer shopping habits by looking at the conversation on social media.

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