Amazon just bought Whole Foods, and business analysts are slamming at their keyboards to tell us what this means for future of grocery stores, and for retail in general. Many are saying — some of them somewhat gleefully — that this could spell the end of brick-and-mortar grocery stores as we know them.
As someone who embraces technology myself … I hope the hell not.
Online grocery shopping is a boon for people whose circumstances preclude them from easy, physical shopping. I get that, and would never suggest it shouldn’t exist for them or for anyone who simply finds it convenient. But I hope we never get to the point where that’s the only option.
I enjoy my ritual of going to the store every week (or more often when needed). I like the selections, I like interacting with people, I like finding something new that I might never have seen otherwise and — most of all, perhaps — I like having the items right away. For me, shopping is one of the few times I get to mix with so many different people. I’ve even made lasting friends here and there.
Society is getting increasingly segregated and divested, and the trend toward online everything (and possibly fear of mass attacks) is only making that worse.
It’s not just about socializing, either: Being among a crowd reminds you that people exist, whether or not you talk to anybody. It can make you feel better if you’re lonely and depressed. When you see different races and cultures going about their business around you, it’s harder to believe hateful caricatures about them. As we already see every day, we need more interaction, not less.
So, yeah, online shopping might be my only route for the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia DVD sets I can’t find on any shelves (assuming technology hasn’t completely phased DVDs out as well). But I hope our technostopia finds a middle ground between the virtual and the physical. It’s good to leave the house — and your navel — once in a while.