Social Science - Other

The Mall and the value of Social Interactions



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Have you ever considered your purpose of going to the mall? Perhaps you may say that is an easy question. I go to the mall to buy things. Your statement may be true. However, did you know that many people go to the mall to do more than purchase items? Some people go to the mall to socialize, or to escape the hassles of everyday life. Others go to the mall to obtain a sense of security or order, or to enjoy culture. The mall is more than just a place to spend money.

Richard Francaviglia, director of the center for Greater Southwestern Studies reports, "Sociologists have long known that people visit shopping centers for far more than commercial reasons" (271). Over two decades ago, Edward Tauber presented the idea of "Socreational shopping", which revealed that malls are just as important for social communication as they are for purchasing items (Francaviglia 271).

Perhaps you have been to the mall twice in one week only to notice the same elderly group sitting and having lunch together. This mall scene is very familiar to me. Sociologist George Lewis states, "The mall is a central life setting for many elderly persons who frequent it on a regular basis" (313). For the elderly, the mall is a place of social interaction. They also feel less isolated in such an environment, which imparts to them a sense of security. Lewis States, "Many of these persons are retired, many widowed. They feel they have little else to fill their days" (313). Without the daily concerns of work and family, the elderly derive meaning from the personal relationships they develop at the mall.

However, the elderly are not the only ones who enjoy the social interaction that takes place in the mall. Teenagers also find themselves drawn to the mall for social interaction. George Lewis states, "The mall is one of the few places teenagers can go in this society where they are-albeit reluctantly-allowed to stay without being asked to leave" (316). However, the security guards in the mall do occasionally bother them. Lewis states, "Indeed such treatment is better, for most, than the treatment they can expect elsewhere" (318). Many of these young individuals experience turmoil in their homes; therefore, the mall is not only a place to socialize, but also a place to escape such conflict.

Perhaps you are one of many who head to the mall to escape the chaos of everyday life. Particular individuals feel a sense of security from the order represented within the malls structure. For instance, some people know exactly where certain stores are and where those stores will be when they return. This is especially true for those who seek order yet have difficulty finding it elsewhere. Ira Zepp Jr. records, "I believe one of the reasons malls have grown rapidly and their popularity increased is that they fulfill our need for order and orientation" (287).

The mall also offers a great array of culture. Victor Gruen, the man behind the first American mall states, "Malls attract crowds and if we want to understand American culture, we must go where the people are" (247). Some individuals go to the mall to enjoy the culture adorned on the manikins in store windows, or on the attire of the passing crowd. Maybe you are one of many who find yourself going to the mall to enjoy the style that each individual reflects.

You see, whether it is where people go to develop relationships, stay fit, find order, or to escape; the mall means more to people than many of us expect. George Lewis notes, "In a word, the regional shopping mall has become kind of a civic center, a point of attraction for millions of Americans, whether they choose to buy something there regularly or not" (312). "Ironically, then, the real community ties that do exist in the mall have little to do with economic function" (Lewis 319).

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