Changes in way we shop can damage the fabric of society

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Woolworths, Clinton Cards, Comet, Jessops - and now we wave farewell to HMV and Blockbuster.

It’s the roll-call of the doomed, as the piecemeal destruction of Britain’s high streets continues unabated.

The empty premises are invariably replaced by charity shops, building societies or fast food emporia, none of which offer what could be remotely described as ‘a retail experience.’

But I fear there is worse to come. How long will it be before even those companies enjoying relative prosperity decide to close their revenue-sapping outlets and focus instead on cyberspace?

Nobody can blame firms for maximising profits by cutting costs in these straitened times. They are not obliged to have a social conscience – which is just as well because few of them have.

But this shift in shopping habits is going to have far more damaging long-term effects on the fabric of society, as people retreat ever further behind their computers and laptops.

Healthy social interaction will diminish as shopping is done at the press of a button and goods are delivered to the door by people who are often unseen and largely unacknowledged.

Such arms-length activities will simply exacerbate the corrosive effect anti-social media like Facebook and Twitter have on the ability of people to communicate on a conventional level.

Apparently, the wretched Facebook phenomenon has lost 600,000 subscribers in the past few months, but there are still many millions succumbing to its delusional charms.

These sad obsessives hunch over their computers, stacking up ‘friends’ like worthless chips and sharing confidences with people they’ve never met and, in most cases, never intend to.

It is a form of shallow, sanitised discourse, which can be started and ended on a whim with no thought for the consequences. It can also provide an open platform for malign and scurrilous observations, often made by so-called cyber warriors who would never have the nerve to say such things face to face.

God knows what will pass for personal communication in 50 years’ time. I’m just glad I won’t be around to see it.