If your typical post-work evening plans tend to involve eating takeout alone while watching Netflix and texting your friends, you’re actually on trend, according to a report from Curbed on the millennial tendency toward “cocooning.” According to Curbed, the term was coined in the early 80s by a futurist named Faith Popcorn and broadly describes the practice of staying home in one’s free time in order to be comfortable and relax (versus re-entering the public sphere and spending time in, say, a bar or a restaurant).
“Socialized cocooning,” by extension, used to describe the choice to host a night in with friends instead of meeting up and going out. But it’s since evolved to describe a connected night in, one spent communicating digitally with friends, while staying physically remote. For those of us who live alone, that change is affecting both the way we set up our homes, and our mental health.
The Curbed article details how millennials who are living alone tend to construct and decorate their homes with solitude—instead of entertaining or hosting guests—in mind. Popcorn told Curbed she believes that turning our private spaces into “a narcissistic environment” will fundamentally change home design: With less interest in entertaining (or cooking, thanks to delivery apps), perhaps the kitchen will become defunct; the dining room table will disappear (but coffee tables, for eating on in front of the TV, will become more important); and we’ll be more interested in having decadent, luxury bedding than an open-concept kitchen. Sounds exciting, no?
But unfortunately, all this cozying up is motivated by less-than-cheery realities: Millennials are broke and tired!
“I work at a job that requires all-day chatter, and coming home to my solitude is necessary,” a solo-dwelling woman told Curbed. (The piece also notes her workplace has an open office plan, with all the abject horror that entails.) Another woman living alone described the necessity of creating space for her to “work on her side hustle” rather than entertain.
In short, we’re not just turning away from “entertaining” because we looooove watching The Bachelor alone; we’re also doing it because we’re fried from work and all our close friends live in other cities anyway. We’re not eating off of the same coffee table we freelance from because we’re disrupting the furniture industry; we’re doing it because a new dining room table costs at least a few hundred dollars (and is generally housed in an actual dining room, which many of us do not have). We’re not just staying in because we prefer to socialize via group chats and Instagram; we’re staying in because the average person spends $81 on a night out, and that literally isn’t worth it.
Even if cocooning makes perfect sense and feels like the best option at the moment, it comes with its downsides. Human beings literally need to spend face-to-face time with other people in order to live our healthiest lives, and socializing via our phones is fundamentally not the same. We might be making isolation feel luxurious with Brooklinen sheets and our favorite shows streaming, but it probably isn't actually going to be less lonely in the long run.
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