Meet 'The Bling Ring' of the Internet

Internet communities are sometimes powerful to the point of alarming. This is especially potent in the world of Tumblr, where one can find blogs geared toward everything from the harmless (fandoms and food porn) to the dangerous (pro-anorexia). Now, Jezebel has reported on the existence of a shoplifting community on Tumblr.

Last week, Tumblog We-Unhallowed posted a list of shoplifting-themed blogs, entitled "For your hate-scrolling pleasure: Tumblr's Bling Ring." Referred to as "the lifting community," these bloggers share tips for stealing, post photos of items they take from stores (called "hauls") and provide one another with advice and support. Some of the blogs have been disabled since the We-Unhallowed's list when public, but many of them are still active.

Aside from images, the girls include cost totals for the items they steal, often several thousand dollars worth of clothing, accessories, and beauty products in just a few days from stores like Urban Outfitters, Macys, and Ulta. These girls are relentless. They view shoplifting as a hobby and a lifestyle, not a crime. Similar, as Jezebel notes, to Tumblr's pro-ana community:

[T]hey have an obsession (or hobby/lifestyle in their minds) that is not considered acceptable by those outside of their community. Some feel entitled to the things they're stealing. "I think I'm gonna scope out some designer patches of the department stores near here bc let's face it I'm far too good for the H&M stuff I'm used to lifting and this community deserves more from me," Life Witch wrote.

The bloggers have had mixed reactions to being discovered, ranging from frustration to pride: "i just realized that the post called us tumblrs bling ring and i'm even more flattered. i'm famous. for free," wrote New Lifterr before deleting her site. Another blogger, L-lifterlove said:

I'm actually really pissed off about that one post because I'm first on the list and I don't lift 'because I deserve nice things' if I reblogged that one post it was a fucking JOKE and I have explained the deep trauma of my past and mental problems behind why I actually lift before don't make me go there again or I will have a really bad breakdown.

The relative anonymity of Tumblr makes it a perfect place to build a community around behaviors that are deemed illegal, harmful, or inappriopriate by every one else. On the Internet, you can find a niche of people who share your interests, be they Doctor Who, eating disorders, or shoplifting. These communities are a good thing sometimes, but when it comes to unhealthy behaviors, they are dangerous. As with pro-ana, members of the shoplifting community online become more and more convinced that their addiction is not something that they need to move past, but an essential part of who they are.

So why do these wannabe Winonas do it? At former shoplifter Betsy Sampson told O magazine, "Some psychologists have described it as sexual — it's not at all. It's more like this feeling of triumph while running a marathon. But it doesn't last very long." Sometimes there is an underlying psychological issue, but the O magazine feature states that "there is no evidence that kleptomaniacs suffer childhood trauma at a rate any greater than that of the rest of the population."

As Lifting Babe puts it on her blog:

It’s really hard to wrap my head around the fact that I’ve gotten away with so much in the past few days. I feel extremely powerful, but at the same time, I feel like I’m going to be caught any second. I guess I don’t make the most confident of shoplifters.

This fear of getting caught may cause the Tumblr community to disband. Jezebel's Kate Dries reported that some of the bloggers are shying away from the label of "lifter" now that community has been made public. Which is probably smart, given that they have been posting photos of their stolen wares and listing the stores and locations as well.

Hopefully, some of these girls will be motivated to get the help they need to combat their kleptomania. Shoplifting addiction is a real illness that can be treated.

On the bright side, at least Sophia Coppola has fodder for her next movie.