Social Science - Other

The Mall and the value of Social Interactions



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The mall offers three basics of being a safe place to interact socially: There are people around. That means that there are witnesses around. Excessive drinking of alcohol or drug use is prohibited.

Otherwise, the mall offers a bright, clean, beautiful place to get away from the usual and mundane in life, to meet and greet with friends and neighbors, or to find some form of romance when the younger ones go to meet up with classmates and others from the community. For the elderly or retired, the mall offers a place to go to have interactions with other human beings who are trained to be polite and personable. For some people, this may be the only face to face interaction that they have in days.

In the Sacramento, CA region, a certain mall bookstore chain was widely known to be an adult meeting place for striking up romantic relationships. Groups of senior citizens meet at malls for exercise, as "mall walking" has become a safe, challenging indoor activity. Malls have incorporated activities that can engage the children or the community, such as performances by the local school choir or special holiday presentations.

In the absence of the traditional "downtown", the mall serves as a larger, glitzier place where commerce, dining, relaxation, and socializing all combine to make more than a shopping experience. Going to one large regional mall can be the equivalent of going to "the city" for rural and some isolated suburban folk. And nothing is more rewarding than going to "the city" and running into someone who we know.

But the mall offers passive, chaotic, and distant forms of social interaction, where the games arcade, the movie theater, the shops, or the food court are the center of interaction, not the individuals who are interacting. The interactions are truncated by "having to move on", or by interruptions from someone else in the teen aged pack. In the cases of dealing with store personnel, the actual human interaction can be unsatisfactory as rudeness, lack of the item that we came for, or some other disappointment occurs.

At the mall, most adult denizens are on their own, out to do some chore or to browse through the new arrivals, and there is no depth or importance to the interactions that occur. Even when greeting a friend or co worker, both individuals are ready to end the conversation and move on to get the shopping done.

The mall, then, is no substitute for more traditionally interactive, relaxed and healthy forums for socializing, such as community meetings, working for a few hours as a volunteer, going to parties, or visiting in the home. But a couple of hours "downtown" cannot hurt, either.




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