Australia, blogging, Food, Mental Health, Philosophy

Hollow Online Experiences

When the internet came along, it was suggested that everything would be done online, from shopping to employment and communications. Individuals would not need to leave home to live their consumer lives.

The public however, has shown that we are primarily social creatures and are reluctant to embrace a completely virtual lifestyle. Whilst online shopping has undoubtedly increased, it wasn’t the tidal wave envisaged by the tech industry, until Covid 19 came along.

Our lives have become more virtual, whether we liked it, or not.

Getting takeout or takeaway doesn’t seem to give us the same experience as dining in at a restaurant or cafe. Neither does the online shopping experience feel quite as satisfying as the benefits of browsing in person at a store, feeling the fabric in a garment, physically trying on clothing, or chatting to another shopper, seeing what is around.

Because it is not just the objective alone, that is important.

It’s the whole consumer experience.

The atmosphere at the cafes and shops is attractive to us through our senses: the watching of people; the smells, sights and sounds; (overwhelming for some), or the conversation with friends you meet whilst shopping; the interaction with Cafe staff and fellow diners; the inspirational decor on the walls, or from the books on the shelves in a bookstore; even the art on the walls.

All of this, together, gives us a pleasurable sensory experience that is clearly important to us, as a comment on my second blog alluded.

“We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”

Dalai Lama

Benefits of Covid and Virtual Lifestyle

During the Covid lockdown, skies, streets and air appears cleaner and we have more time on our hands. None of that horrid sitting stuck in traffic on the way home from work, or rushing to catch a crowded train with a million other commuters at 5pm.

Other people discover there is time to get to know their kids, becoming involved, by choice or necessity, in their education, or generally engaging with them more because there is little ecternal events to absorb their time. (Albeit for some, this could be far more stressful and family life might suffer from a lack of outside exposure, stimulation or influence).

All wonderful benefits of an enforced, semi-virtual life.

scenic cafe window- pensive

Yet, it seems even introverts or socially phobic individuals have struggled with being cooped up during the Covid pandemic.

We, as humans, seem to value social interaction above any virtual experience.

Cafe Society Lifestyle

Prior to the appearance of Covid, the Cafe society was a popular lifestyle choice in Australia. When cafes closed down in lock-down, no one knew what would happen. Aussie Cafes/Diners and Restaurants were legally allowed to operate only on a takeaway, (takeout), basis.

Many chose to close, temporarily, or permanently and the alfresco cafe dining experience came to an abrupt end.

al fresco dining restaurant

The Beach Esplanade, near my home, is lined with popular cafes and restaurants of all persuasions and cuisines. Being smaller businesses, most have closed completely, but some remain open. Last night, I placed a phone order for a ‘Quarantine Pack’, at one of the restaurants. Being a Friday night, I wondered what I’d find when I arrived for the meal.

At the Italian restaurant itself, a makeshift pick-up counter was laid out with social distancing markers in the formerly packed out al fresco dining area. Customers awaited their order in silence, or hushed in conversations with their partner, spaced well apart from each other. This was a very different picture to the regular Friday night.

On the opposite side of the road, overlooking the sea, couples and small family groups sat on benches or rugs, at the required social distance, eating their takeaway meals and watching the moonlight filtering over the waves, lapping the shore.

It was another life, but it was okay. Not ideal, but it had a beauty all of its own, even a little nostalgic or romantic perhaps.

It begs the question as to how much of a virtual lifestyle we can lead?

Is it possible for human beings to live like this, at all?

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