In my blogs and in our company’s Leisure eNewsletters, we’ve been giving extensive coverage to the impact that digital technology is having on peoples’ lives and their leisure, and how, as a result, it is slowly disrupting location-based leisure. Our last eNewsletter issue featured an article Why entertainment venues should fear digital technology that discussed the increasingly technology-enabled, hyper-convenience of never needing to physically experience the outside real world, what is known as the super cocooning – just staying in the comfort of our homes where anything, physical goods or digital, can be delivered.
Back in October 2013, our eNewsletter covered Sherry Turkle’s research about people and their relationships with mobile technologies and the effects digital technology is having on how friends and people interact in the world. She sees a trend called a flight from conversation brought about by texting and social media. Turkle says we are developing conversation-phobia, people prefer texting and posting on social media rather than talking on the phone or having face-to-face conversations.
A recent article in The Atlantic magazine, Alone Together: The Return of Communal Restaurant Tables, brought home the point again for me. The article discussed how communal tables tend to only work in restaurants when you have a social lubricant, either booze or interesting artisanal food. The article then went on to point out that the communal tables at Starbucks work a little different, where there is an absence of booze or entertaining food. There, the communal table is used as a communal desk where people sit looking at their digital screens while they occasionally sip some coffee and not interacting. There, The Atlantic said, “We use technology to make sitting around a communal table an acceptable practice. There is an understanding among customers that although the space is shared, there is no need to socialize because that’s what the smartphone is for. The communal table lets us indulge our social needs without actually socializing.”
It is becoming increasing clear that digital technology is shifting our social interaction with each other from taking place in the real world to taking place in the digital world and consequently, real world get-togethers, talking face-to-face, is rapidly becoming extinct. This means that what was once a primary reason for going out to an entertainment venue, the socializing, is losing its appeal, as that’s what texting and social media on the smartphone is for.