Go out? No thanks!

Private Property South Africa

Browsing through a local magazine the other day, I came across the topic of “cocooning”. Intrigued, I read on to discover that cocooning essentially refers to stay-at-home behaviour.

According to Wikipedia, cocooning is the name given to the trend that sees individuals socialising less and retreating into their homes more. The term was coined in the 1990s by trend forecaster and marketing consultant Faith Popcorn.

Faith explains: “Born out of a mix of fear and fun, it became a trend identified with Cold War unease that led to stay-at-home entertainment such as the first home video game systems, rec rooms and the adoption of home swimming pools and trampolines.”

Many ways to do it

She suggests that cocooning can be broken down into three different types:

  • The “socialised” cocoon in which one retreats to the privacy of one’s home

  • +

The “armoured” cocoon in which one establishes a barrier to protect oneself from external threats

  • The ‘”wandering” cocoon in which one travels with a technological barrier that serves to insulate one from the environment

An example of socialised cocooning would be staying in to watch a movie instead of going out to see a film. Wandering cocooners are those individuals (such as yours truly) who go to gym with iPods plugged in for the duration of their session. “Phubbing” or the art of snubbing those with you by spending every waking moment on your phone could also be a form of wandering cocooning. Suffice to say this is not a particularly attractive trait – yet it also seems to be on the rise.

Examples of armoured cocooning include network firewalls, virtual private networks and spyware-blocking software applications.

Innovation and isolation

Technology has made cocooning easier than ever before. Technological innovations such as the Internet, smart phones, tablets and Kindles are enabling more and more people to live in relative isolation while maintaining contact with the outside world. Unsurprisingly, cocooning is on the rise, a trend Faith refers to as “super-cocooning”.

“Thanks to always-on wireless Internet connectivity and bigger, better TVs that reproduce pixel-perfect high-definition video, cocooning is entering a new evolutionary stage. Consumers are staying at home more, watching movies delivered via cable, satellite, Internet or disc, eating in and transforming their apartments and houses into shelters from the daily social storm.”

Pros and cons

Of course there are pros and cons to the trend. Analyst Michael Greeson of media research group The Diffusion Group reckons that super-cocooning is making us less social. “With all the information and entertainment at arms’ reach at home, why get out and meet up with a friend when you can chat on Facebook? Why go shopping for a book at Barnes & Noble when you can search through a virtually unlimited bookstore like Amazon and never leave your couch?”

On the plus side, cocooning can be a way to take some much needed time out. After a long day of dealing with possibly difficult, demanding people, noise, dangerous taxi-drivers and other hair-raising situations, it’s nice to just go home and live in a bubble.

The onesie craze

Some savvy manufacturers have cottoned on to the trend and are creating cocooning-orientated products. For example, Granny Goose is considering re-introducing its “sleep sack” – a featherbed bottom and a light duvet on top which is fashioned into a “bag” to use when lying on the couch. Onesies (rather unflattering adult-size outfits that mimic baby rompers) are also predominantly aimed at those who feel the need to go into cocooning mode.

As is the case with all things in life, there should be a balance. By all means retreat once in a while and take some time for yourself. After all, dealing with the real world can be an exhausting and nerve-wracking affair. But care should be taken not to disappear into yourself to the extent that you forget what it means to really get out there and take part in life.

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