Particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic but even before, Americans have been enjoying the luxury of the world on their phones, including a world of services: delivery apps, rideshares, online shopping, and more. Where our parents and grandparents might see a sea of new, strange faces every day and chat during checkout, in 2023 a motivated consumer can go days without talking to someone else.
A new survey by PlayUSA examines the ramifications of a world of tech substituting face-to-face interactions; it found that while 67% found it harder to connect meaningfully, 62% also enjoy that tech is replacing human contact.
The retail and hospitality sector are most affected by this: 3 in 5 now use self checkout kiosks rather than talk to people, and 3 in 4 continue to ask delivery app drivers to contactless food drop offs instead of talking to them even for a moment. Curbside pickup remains popular, with 1 in 5 willing to pay fees if it means they can continue avoiding even entering a store. In the restaurant, over 1 in 2 get annoyed if another table is seated next to them in an otherwise empty restaurant, and 1 in 4 aren’t even willing to eat out alone without their phones. Silence is golden in the car, as well: with over half of Americans preferring not to talk to a rideshare driver and 30% likely to give rideshare drivers a better rating, it’s clear that tech has aided the introverts among us- so much so that 3 in 5 introverts say tech has helped their social anxiety.
Technology is even invading the sportsbook: as one study finds that 47% of Americans are planning on watching the Triple Crown horse races: according to PlayUSA, nearly 1 in 2 prefer gambling online to gambling in person, and 31% do so to avoid talking to people.
Americans like to be alone, but that doesn’t stop them from being lonely: 31% have felt lonely or isolated due to tech, and 68% feel that tech has led to a decrease in empathy. PlayUSA also found that 3 in 4 feel their social skills have decreased due to tech; one such example is nearly 1 in 2 Americansare anxious talking on the phone. Specifically, 3 in 5 Millennials and Gen Z struggle with giving or answering a call. Isolation is forcing some more existential questions as well: a recent study found that just under 1 in 3 have asked Google existential questions about life, and one of the main reasons why is for the sense of companionship.
Americans are looking to connect more: 79% are planning on attending a concert this year and another study found that the chief reason MLB fans attend games is the quality time with friends and family. On the dating front, a recent survey of US singles found that most are looking for a relationship- and just under 1 in 2 think they’ll meet that special someone on apps. Perhaps, in this case, tech can help– not hinder. It does enable many of the more popular side hustle options and allows Americans to find a way of living that works for them.
Loneliness in Retirement(Opens in a new browser tab)
It’s clear that technology can streamline life and erase tedious small talk– but it also has a deep emotional toll. Americans are pulled to connect, but intentionally: small talk might be out, but spending quality time with those one chooses to is certainly still in.
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