I was thinking the other day about the pros and cons of online shopping. I’m a fan overall, and particularly of the grocery shopping type.
But it did occur to me there is a quite significant con to online grocery shopping, particularly for a borderline recluse like me.
Bumping into people at the supermarket has for many years provided me with a near-ideal form of social interaction with “fringe” acquaintances. By these, I mean people who I knew at some point in my life but who I wouldn’t call up for coffee and probably couldn’t find enough to talk about for the duration of a latte.
I say the ‘supermarket bump-and-go’ is near ideal because it can last as long as it needs to and there is an easy exit from the interaction when we run out of things to talk about. And it focuses on exchange of information about the daily doings of our lives without going into major detail. It’s very efficient in that way.
Not that efficiency is my main criterion for catching up with people. Actually, my priority is to avoid awkwardness and discomfort for both parties. Hence the short catch up is so good because it can be terminated if things start getting stilted.
It may occur to you that my focus on minimising awkwardness and discomfort is missing the point of what friendships are about. It certainly occurred to me as I was thinking about this.
What I find draining about social interactions is thinking up things to talk about. Keeping the conversation going. With good friends this is a non issue. That’s one reason they end up in the good friend bucket.
But for almost all other interactions I have a fear of being unable to keep up my end of the conversation, and that this will lead to awkward silences. I will listen quite happily to extroverts talk about themselves. My usual strategy is to ask questions and follow-up questions, hopefully without turning it into an interrogation. Most times this makes for a very interesting conversation (for me, at least). But if I’m not up to it, if I’m tired, or I’m having to make a real effort to be interested, I find myself sinking into silence and the conversation dries up around me. Awkward.
This is where the supermarket bump-and-go comes into its own. Standing there with my trolley full of perishables, it is the most reasonable thing in the world to gracefully end the encounter by indicating the need to finish shopping. Since it’s what we’re both there for, it’s a mutually agreeable exit strategy.
The bump-and-go might just be reason enough not to do my grocery shopping on line. My social life will likely dry up altogether if I never leave the house.