“Is Staying In the New Going Out?” That’s the provocative headline of a T Magazine story posted yesterday. In it, author Molly Young points out that “A few years ago, my coworkers and I exchanged happy highlight reels of ambitious urban activities before cracking open our laptops and pouring ourselves a tall, refreshing glass of work.” These days, when she and her colleagues ask each other what they did the past weekend, they “respond to the question with a look of puzzled amnesia.”
The reason is obvious: We no longer go out. And why would we, when the allure of staying in has reached irresistible proportions? Why risk a restaurant when you can order Seamless or sauté premade gnocchi from Blue Apron? Why go to a bar when you can swipe right? Why go to a reading when you can download a podcast? Why pay $15 to see a boneheaded Marvel rehash in theaters when the world of premium streaming content is at your fingertips? Food, entertainment, romance: The traditional weekend staples are now available entirely on demand. The centripetal force of our homes has never been stronger.
As I read this, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Vanity Fair article last year which proclaimed, based on extremely filtered anecdotal evidence, a dating “apocalypse” because of the rise of Tinder and other dating apps.
In both cases, the authors postulate that technology has led to profoundly game-changing alterations to human (well, Millennial) behavior in a very short span of time. And in both cases — to be fair, the T article is lighter and doesn’t make as in-depth a case as the Vanity Fair one — the authors leave out less sexy, more nuanced possibilities. In Young’s case, for example, maybe it’s just that she and her colleagues are getting older! God knows I, a 32-year-old, treasure quiet Friday nights in a way my 25-year-old self probably wouldn’t have recognized. As the Awl put it in its one-sentence response to Young’s article, “Writer Not 23 Anymore.” (For what it’s worth, just last year Eater wrote about a marketing report that suggested that Millennials are big fans of eating out, and will splurge on nice meals even when money is tight.)
This shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but culture and society and economics and generational differences interact and lead to behavior in really tangled ways. It doesn’t really make sense to say, “No one is dating/going out/whatever anymore, because technology.”
“This stuff is complicated,” on the other hand, may be a tough sell as a headline and is unlikely to provoke a heated online debate. But, well, this stuff is complicated.