Focus: Home sweet digital home

The new 'cocooner' is no couch potato. But why go out when you can make the world come to you?

Greg Rowland last left his house around two days ago - he thinks. He says he popped out for a pint of milk the day before yesterday, just between Fifteen To One and Countdown. Then he scuttled back to make his son's tea and catch Richard Whiteley on the box.

Greg wouldn't want you to assume he's a couch potato. He is a television critic, plays in a band, helps to look after his seven-month-old son and writes articles about the finer points of home living, such as pizza delivery etiquette.

Greg is one of a new breed of "cocooners" - people who believe their home is not just their castle but, thanks to technology and digital culture, their supermarket, cinema, games arcade and social life. Not for them the harsh realities of the external world; scrumming it on the Tube; schlepping to over-crowded bars and overrated restaurants. At 32, Greg is settling down, "not to a pipe and slippers but to the digital age".

He has a full and active life with his partner, son and friends; it's just that it all takes place within the four safe walls of home. "When my friends visit they say my house has a very strong centre of gravity," he says. "They find themselves getting sucked in and never want to leave. Everything you'd want is on tap: food, drink, videos, large TV and comics." He is, naturally, an avid e-mailer and internet user.

Soon, even more of us will become cocooners. According to a survey by Active Centre Management Associates published last week, half of all retail sales will take place on the internet in 10 years' time. UK shoppers spent pounds 500m on five billion on-line purchases last year, and based on the fact that the internet attracts 11,000 new subscribers each day, the study predicts that website shopping could well rise to pounds 6bn by 2003, providing us with door-to-door deliveries on a daily basis of groceries, books, clothes, holidays - even your favourite LP. If this sealed existence seems a little, well, slobby, you can always call a personal trainer.

That we're a nation of stay-at-home DIY-ers is an established fact; first there was Changing Rooms and now there's Ground Force, vehicle for the famously bra-less gardener Charlie Dimmock, which is BBC1's most popular programme, after EastEnders.

But when we're not rag-rolling or building water features in our backyard, we like to take it easy. In fact, we are chomping our way through more TV-type dinners and other convenience foods than ever before - pounds 6.6bn- worth. Tesco's has announced it will expand its hugely successful internet home delivery service from two London stores to more than a 100 nationwide by Christmas.

And in the same week we heard about a home device called the Bluetooth, which will, apparently, revolutionise our domestic lives: a mobile phone will be able to "communicate" with all our household appliances, make shopping lists and record TV programmes.

But critics have suggested that feathering the nest this much and making our lives so much easier in such a self-indulgent fashion will make us fat, anti-social and lazy. One recent study, Young People, New Media, carried out at the London School of Economics, concluded that teenagers rarely venture into the outside world. Last week University of Minnesota researchers claimed that changes in lifestyle meant babies were becoming more inert, spending hours in front of the television or strapped into a car seat. This has increased worries that children are more overweight than ever before.

Yet for all that, the majority of us are hardly ever at home. Working hours are longer and more harrowing; while employees yearn to be home- based, plenty are increasingly office-bound. No wonder, then, that the home is such a powerful focus for our fantasies, a refuge for our shattered egos and identities.

"Being at home is about having your own agenda," says Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson. "Reflect- ing and doing things you enjoy doing; creating your own experience rather than believing other people's idea of fun."

But the notion of the home-as-insulated-capsule is bound to cause moral indignation; any pleasurable pursuit that can be enjoyed alone usually does. That doesn't mean it's bad for you; nor that you are inward looking and self-indulgent. Hodgkinson suggests that guilt is to blame for the inevitable criticism of cocoon culture. "People are guilty that life can be made easier; it's a sort of collective masochism," he says.

Essential to the 1990s cocoon is choice; to be able to furnish it digitally, electronically - and stylishly. But, more importantly, choice means that you want to be there in the first place. If your cocoon is anything less than a conscious lifestyle decision, then probably the best thing you could do is get out a little more.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

    £16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits