Does the Sharing Economy Create Hermits?

We’re all familiar with the clichés about people who go too far when it comes to staying online, at the expense of interacting with actual humans in the real world. The poster child of voluntary shut-ins would be a pasty-faced, anti-social nerd who confines himself to his mother’s basement, engaging only with online communities.

And now that more people than ever are connecting to one another wirelessly via smartphones, tablets and laptops while on the go, a new business model has emerged around the so-called sharing economy. Also referred to as the “gig economy,” it involves individuals working as independent contractors who handle tasks on a demand basis, such as delivery of various items facilitated by a platform and smartphone app.

Convenience and price savings make sharing economy efforts popular since businesses no longer need to maintain brick and mortar locations for customers to buy things. They can dispatch freelance drivers to obtain packages on demand from central warehousing and bring them to customers waiting at home.

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Are They Shut-ins Or Just Optimizing Use Of Precious Time?

You might be inclined to think that the sharing economy is going to create a new generation of hermits. After all, you only need a computer or smartphone to find exactly what you want and then tap an icon to have it brought to your home in as little as 30 minutes, depending on driver-to-customer ratios in your area.

In some cases, you don’t even need to interact with the person delivering items, which would be left outside your door or placed in a locked box for you to retrieve when you want them.

Some aspects of the sharing economy have the potential to create hermits. But it’s not a given that the sharing economy would automatically turn people who are already somewhat inclined into becoming full-fledged shut-ins.

After all, the people who are providing delivery services are definitely not hermits, as their job requires them to interact with a wide variety of people in their area (customers as well as the workers at companies where the drivers pick up items).

And you can make a case that people who take advantage of home delivery services are doing so to save them precious time that they would rather not waste on shopping, so as to devote it to socializing with friends, family and work colleagues.

They aren’t hermits, but are just maximizing their time.

However, it’s clear that it’s easier than ever before to sustain a life without going outside, thanks to disruptions in the economy like smartphone app-based on-demand services.

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What About Robots?

We can anticipate that robots will become a bigger part of the sharing economy, when mass production of these machines allows prices to decline to the point where ordinary companies can start to use them in lieu of humans. Automated, driverless cars will ferry people around as well as bring items to their front door.

When this aspect of the economy takes off, there will be less opportunity for person-to-person contact even during the brief moment when delivery is made.

New Definition Of Hermit?

Is a person still rightly considered a hermit even if he spends several hours every day interacting with people via video calls, text messaging and voice calls? What about spending time in an online, virtual world where each person is viewed as an idealized avatar rather than his or her actual human form, but there never is any physical contact?

People are social animals, and those that do not have a chance to interact with their peers in person will find a way to connect in some fashion, even if it is mediated through the screens of computers, smartphones or virtual reality goggles.

Whatever your opinion is of the sharing economy and where it is heading, it’s fair to say that while it is not likely going to turn more people into hermits any time soon, there will be greater potential for hermits to thrive when you involve more robots and other automated systems to arrange for pickup and delivery.

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