iPad and the Super Cocoon

By Richard Menta 2/18/13

I tend to get serious cabin fever around this time. The Northeast in February is cold and the addition of a bitter wind easily makes a simple walk from parking lot to the front door of a restaurant an exercise in urban survival training. Still, I have to get out. I love the house I live in and I have family to keep me actively engaged on a freezing Sunday afternoon. I also like to do other things than watch television or read books. This winter, the pinball museum in Asbury Park has proved a more than novel destination for myself, the missus and our 5 year old (who already possesses precocious flipper control). A six pack of Rutgers basketball games also gets the wife and I out for a couple of hours. I like my iPad and iPod. I also like fresh air, even if it is of the refrigerated variety.

This said I am not sure how to address today's USA Today article Cocooning: It's back and thanks to tech, it's bigger. Cocooning is when folk choose to be homebodies after the workday to limit the added stresses life on the outside might bring. Technology, in the form of huge flatscreens and tiny mobile devices has brought what the article identifies as super cocooning. From the article:

Richard Menta

Consumers are staying home more, watching movies delivered via cable, satellite, Internet or disc, eating in and transforming their apartments and houses into a shelter from the daily social storm.

This new level of super-cocooning is affecting Hollywood, professional sports and restaurants across the U.S. "Everybody is nervous, really nervous," says trend forecaster Faith Popcorn, who coined the term "cocooning" in 1981. "I think we are looking for protection. Almost like the Jetsons, we want to walk around in a little bubble. We are moving toward that."

Now I like to snuggle up with a good paperback in a warm living room from time to time, but technology has not made me want to stay in more despite the fact that's what I write about. Maybe, that's why I have a bit of trouble wrapping my arms around this trend.

As evidence of Super Cocooning the article points out that consumers overall spent 2% more during the fourth quarter of last year than 2011, "but spent less on hotels (-21%), car rentals (-26%), restaurants (-16%) and tolls (-8%). Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase has found that consumers increased spending on electronics such as TVs as well as the iPad and Android tablets by 65% during the same period. These are significant changes if accurate.

Naturally, I find it all intriguing. Is it media devices like the iPad that makes people want to stay in more? Or is the desire to cocoon driving tablet sales as a byproduct of a segment of society already prone to sequester themselves in their living room? If the economy should boom again will the cocoon trend dissipate and will this negatively affect technology sales?

Time will give us a better insight, I guess.

By the way, did you notice something about the two men pictured in the USA Today article. Hunkered down in front of the 70" flat screen, surrounded by chips and beer were two pretty husky middle age guys. It does not take a brilliant intuition to figure out that super cocooning equals chunky couch potato. If super cocooning indeed adds to an already significant obesity crisis in this nation and if media devices feed super cocooning...well, you know what's going to come in the near future. Alarming little teasers on your favorite television news program along the lines of Is the iPad Making You FAT!?!


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