There was a time, not all that long ago, when in-person socializing was the only form of socializing we could imagine. Occasionally you would chat to a friend or loved one on the phone, but that was about it – everything else was face-to-face. But those days are long gone with the rise of technology, mobile devices, and recent social upheaval.
Most countries have lifted COVID restrictions more than a year ago and are now facing a cost of living crisis accompanied by soaring energy prices. We’ve been conditioned to spend more and more time online, we have less money, and many of us are changing our lifestyles to fit into those new paradigms. To learn more about how the world really sees in-person socializing as 2023 takes shape, we’re going to take a closer look at several key factors.
Are we all spending less money? With the cost of living increasing and inflation reducing the buying power of our monthly take-home pay, we’re being forced to spend a greater proportion of our money on the essentials. Heating, transport and food are all costing more, as are most mortgage and rental rates. This means things like socializing that can be scaled up and down to suit the wider situation are being pushed to the margins.
We can expect to see a drop in the number of holidays and vacations people take later in the year, with more and more of us opting for a staycation instead. While there’s nothing wrong with being a little more prudent with one’s household budget, the knock-on effect is that businesses in those industries will see a drop in income. That leaves more people whose financial situation is under pressure, which then feeds into the rest of the economy. From this simple example, it’s clear that a small change in how a particular section of the economy performs can force the majority of us to evaluate the relative importance of taking a break and getting away to enjoy some sun.
Another consideration is whether or not people are still trying to avoid mixing. Look around you in any supermarket and you will soon see a noticeable minority of people still wearing face masks and practicing other forms of social distancing. Again, there may be nothing inherently wrong with exercising a little extra caution – especially if you have an underlying health condition.
In any given family, it will only take one or two people to decide they want to reduce their amount of face-to-face contact to have an effect right through the family and wider social circle. Interactions moving from meetups and lunches to WhatsApp and Facetime will become increasingly normalized, especially when you consider how common this was just a few months ago during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Combine this with the fact that these services are free at the point of consumption, and you have something which fits naturally with the fact that millions of us are looking to save money and stretch our budgets a little bit further.
We then have to look at what people will do as substitute once they decide to spend more time at home. One of the primary drivers of people staying at home, particularly to save money over winter, is access to information online. Many people are choosing to spend time by themselves, learning new things about a wide range of topics. Online cooking on Masterclass, free tools to research family history, and even explainer articles on things like how casino bonuses work and how engines work are proving popular.
The feeling of being connected, as well as being able to access a constant stream of novel stimuli, will likely prove widely appealing. The problem with this is that, while it does provide entertainment, it also has the potential to increase feelings of isolation, loneliness and inadequacy.
You only have to spend an hour on Facebook, scrolling through your friends’ updates, to feel like you just don’t measure up to the manicured version of events everyone else presents. Spending more time alone and feeling like you’re looking at the world from a distance, seeing only the good things others experience, could have a profound negative effect on wellness and mental health.
While a lot of the fallout from the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis is unavoidable for the individual, there is still a place for regular, low-cost, in-person social contact. Hopefully it will be seen as something that’s not just desirable and fun, but essential to overall wellbeing and health as we progress through the potentially tricky and stressful landscape of 2023.