Like an increasing number of Americans, I do much of my shopping online (except for groceries). But in the past couple of weeks I have done something very uncharacteristic: I’ve willingly gone to shopping centers to window shop (I’ve even bought things from an actual store).
Maybe it’s the holiday season that’s put me in the mood, maybe retailers are getting better at presenting a pleasant experience (see the above image of the Santa Monica Place Mall), but I’ve found myself enjoying real-life shopping a lot more than I expected.
Let’s face it, there are very few places in our modern-day cities where we can go to exist with each other in the same space. So if you want to be where other people are and just take in the energy, the mall is the easiest of very few options. That is something we should not accept as an unchangeable part of modern life.
Why do we have so few public squares? And why are so many tied to shopping? Is consuming all we can manage to do together?
Of course, we can point to theaters, cinemas, or sports stadiums. But those are not the same. A public square is essential. It cannot be substituted. Us human beings are essentially pack animals. We need to be around each other at least some of the time.
To that end, we must do a better job. Until then, I’ll be doing a lot more window shopping.