There has never been a more unrealistic show on television than Friends. The fantasy it sells its audience on—that six people in their 20s can get together regularly without any sort of apparent planning—is a bald-faced lie. Can you imagine the group texts, the email chains, the interlocking commitments, the sheer complexity of organizing a six-person gathering at a coffee shop? If it wanted to make any effort at realism, Friends should have been a show about six people calling each other, leaving messages, and making excuses so they could stay in their apartments and watch TV.
Last week, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released the American Time Use Survey, an annual look at how people spend the precious minutes of their short lives. Mostly, people sleep (almost nine hours a day on average), work (just under eight hours on days they work), and watch TV (a bit under three hours). A scant 41 minutes of each average day are spent socializing in person with other humans, a number that's fallen by 9 percent over the past decade. Does this mean that society is falling further away from the everyone-kicking-it-all-the-time paradise of Friends? Or that we're talking to people online rather than in person now?
Maybe something darker is at play here: Maybe Americans aren't hanging out because we're all hiding in our apartments and inventing elaborate lies about why we can't come out.
That's the conclusion of a recent study by something called Yelp Eat24, which I guess is like Seamless but run by Yelp? Regardless, I have no reason not to trust a home food delivery service when it sends out a press release about how people prefer to stay at home, so let's take them at their word when they say, "It may be that FOMO—the Fear of Missing Out—has run its course, as a new survey identifies the power of POMO… the PLEASURE Of Missing Out."
According to the study, almost 30 percent of people are disappointed by nights out, more than a third are stressed out and anxious by them, and hangovers and arguments are also common side effects. So it's no surprise 80 percent of people "admit to having made excuses to avoid going out," a.k.a. lying to your friends so you don't have to see them.
We're all familiar with these lies—"My dog is sick," "I have a thing," "Band practice," "Actually I'm trying not to drink anymore," "I'm not your girlfriend anymore," "I think you have the wrong number." We recognize them in others, and we use them ourselves in order to maintain the facade that we really would love to come to your noise music festival—unfortunately there are some bugs coming out of a hole in the wall and also our cousin is in town. These lies are the lubrication that keeps social interaction from becoming painful, the Machiavellian web that binds us together.
Why don't we just tell the truth? Well, according to data from Yelp Eat24, which, again, I have no reason to even be slightly skeptical of, instead of going out, people do the following things:
1. Watch movie/TV
2. Chill out/nap
3. Eat in
4. Spend time with partner
5. Spend time with children
7. Listen to music
9. Have drinks
10. Play video games
Now, obviously spending time with your partner and children is a pretty good reason not to go out, and chores have to be done, but "listen to music" is not generally an activity that takes up an entire evening. Neither is eating in. Not going out in order to "have drinks," presumably with yourself, is not the most aspirational of evenings, and I can only assume that "chill out" is survey code for "masturbate," which is another thing that really shouldn't take all night.
No matter what you think of "going out," this is kind of grim stuff. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans are spending less time on childcare, work, and socializing, and more time watching TV. And apparently we're all lying to cover up that fact, spinning tall tales about needing to work out when really we're getting shithoused in front of Call of Duty, then "chilling out" into a Snuggie until our food from the good folks at Yelp Eat24 arrives.
If there's any silver lining here it's that at least everyone is doing the same thing. Your laziness, and your inability to be honest with others (and probably, yourself) about what your life has become, is not a personal problem, it's a symptom of a broader malaise. That's why I'm not coming to your party, because society is slowly sliding into lethargy. I'll try to make the next one!