The more virtual we become, the more we crave the physical

"The more virtual we become, the more we crave the physical"

This seems profound. In other words, the virtual world of technology that exists beyond our senses, the world we spend so much time in every day, has made us more than ever needy for actual physical touch, feel, smell, sight and sound.

I found this statement in an IKEA catalog. The designer who said this is giving her take on why people want home furnishings with texture and color. She is introducing a line of products using bamboo, sisal, grasses and rough surfaces.

I don't expect profundity from IKEA, but maybe I should. This is a successful store, wildly so in Europe, and must have its finger on the pulse of a wide range of people. So IKEA's marketing moment can be said to reflect a trend that permeates our high-tech culture: staying grounded in physical reality.

In Megatrends, John Naisbitt writes: High tech/high touch is a formula I use to describe the way we have responded to technology. What happens is that whenever new technology is introduced into society, there must be a counterbalancing human response – that is high touch – or the technology is rejected. The more high tech, the more high touch.” – Megatrends (1982), p. 39.

Certainly this trend could explain the fondness that so many people have for sweating at the gym, chanting their mantras, cooking with exotic spices, going through life with earbuds in, and hugging each other at the drop of a hat. Their lives are lived too much in cyberspace on smart phones, tablets, and computers; they feel. somewhere deep inside, that they may just float away unless they anchor themselves in a sensory world.

The urge to travel can be looked at through this lens. A person hardly needs to actually go anywhere these days, as there are films, books, blogs, webcams, satellite maps, podcasts and every manner of virtual travel instantly available, much of it free, that provide a virtual tourist experience. But people persist in wanting to actually go somewhere--to smell the polluted air in Beijing, to hear the constant traffic in Manhattan, to touch the polyester seats of an overseas flight, to taste the unfamiliar foods that may lead to upset digestive symptoms--in short, even jet lag and air turbulence are welcomed as tangible proof that one has, indeed, gone somewhere else.

Czech castle bar, with hanging stuffed animals

I like this trend, as I have always enjoyed surrounding myself with things that are cuddly, vibrant, arresting, or humorous. In a sterile atmosphere, I feel half-alive. So it's nice to see a justification for my nesting instincts.

Maybe I'll begin to apportion my day into three parts: virtual, physical, and asleep. And maybe I'll visit my local IKEA store to find some great new things to take home with me. If all else fails, I can order some delicious salmon!

IKEA restaurant, home of good food at good prices. Photo by



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