Ever noticed how some Instagram filters make life look better than reality? Ever wished you could be as witty as you are on Twitter at a dinner party? Perhaps you won't try a new restaurant without checking all the reviews on TripAdvisor first? In light of the digital revolution, our online and offline lives are merging -- and digital convivialité is a delightful side-effect of this phenomenon.
We live in an age where identity is undergoing a fundamental shift. The upheaval of the 20th century saw philosophies such as existentialism change society, giving rise to a deeper sense of "self". Since the turn of the century, we've been continually inventing and reinventing ourselves online. Collectively, we are in the process of creating a whole new public space.
Online, "People are able to curate their presence in much more controlled ways, says psychotherapist Dr Aaron Balick, author of The Psychodynamics of Social Networking. Many social networks -- but not all -- appeal to the outward expressions of our egos; a 'selfie' is a good example." Continuing these relationships offline invites more interpersonal complexity -- it's hard to consistently be as clever as your tweets, or look as polished as your profile picture.
Nevertheless, millions of us take online relationships into the real world every day, in situations from dates found through Happn to job interviews arranged on LinkedIn. In doing so we remove barriers between our online and offline selves. This can be difficult as Dr Balick points out, "The reality of the other person is liable to challenge our ideas of that person based on their social media profile."
As the psychotherapist explains, online relationships can be a bit like fast food. They give us all the things we want -- fat, sugar, protein, carbohydrate -- but not what we really need. It's the same with social media. We get the click of connection, but not the warmth of spending time in company. "Fast food is fine now and then, but we also need real-world relationships: the equivalent of a home-cooked meal".
As the younger generation who grew up with social media, "digital natives", become adults, and the older generation use Skype to chat to their grandchildren, digital links are woven into the fabric of life.
This new digital etiquette means rethinking everything from work (I can reply to a work email while queuing up at the cinema) to friendships (why wasn't I in the WhatsApp group for that party?), but the place it's most evident is dating. The internet doesn't replace face-to-face contact; instead it expands options, creating millions of relationships which would never have existed before. According to a 2013 study by Professor John Cacioppo, more than a third of marriages in America began online.
There is a thin line between reality and virtuality. A study conducted by TNS Sofres for Pernod Ricard in January 2015 revealed that 9 out of 10 dating apps users have met in real life at least one person they originally met online. 6000 men and women aged 18 to 64 from six European countries (France, Germany, UK, Spain, Poland and Finland) were questioned about their dating practices. 91% of the interviewees from the UK report having taken the plunge at least once, 89% in France and 86% in Germany, and an average of 88% in those six countries. The study also highlights that 67% of them prefer to meet face-to-face in bars or restaurants. If two out of three Europeans choose to meet up there, it is because these places guarantee a friendly atmosphere favourable for confidence while providing a secure environment.
When it comes to dating, in most cases the online connection takes the form of information-gathering only, according to Professor Harry T. Reis of the University of Rochester in the U.S. "You simply cannot tell what another person is like and how you'll connect with them from a picture or a profile," he says. "There can be real and rich communication in person only."
Didier Rappaport, CEO of Happn, a French startup that developed a dating app, says that he does not believe in dating algorithms. "It's a marketing lie, it's not because two individuals like the same thing that they will fall in love with each other." But no matter how compatible you are on screen, you need to meet for coffee, a drink or a walk in the park to begin to know: "The algorithms are nonsense, concludes Professor Reis. There's no substitute for meeting in flesh and blood."
Ye Olde Mitre is a classic London pub. There's wood panelling, a roaring open fire, dozens of whisky-branded water jugs hanging from the ceiling and a selection of cask ales on tap. In the corner, a group of six people are relaxing and discussing drinks, from the best gin for a classic G&T to favourite cocktails. But they aren't old friends, or colleagues enjoying a pint after work: they met on the internet.
Jane Peyton, an expert on the history of alcoholic drinks, has a thriving business, School of Booze. As part of this, she guides a small group round four pubs and bars with visits tailored to their interests. Her clients find her online, and they fly in from the U.S., South Africa and Europe to enjoy a hyperlocal pub experience during their British vacation.
"Visiting pubs is one of my favourite things to do -- I used to live in the USA and I missed pubs so much, says Jane. My American friends were so envious of the history and character of British pubs." Feedback from groups is very positive -- so much so that she's a top-rated attraction for TripAdvisor's Viator tour agency.
Not that organised tours are the only way that going online helps create good times. If you're staying in, the entire process of party planning has changed. First, you use Doodle, Outlook or another calendar app to find a date. The supermarket shop gets delivered in the afternoon, while you sort out the music via a streaming service such as Spotify or Deezer, or just plug in iTunes from your phone.
YouTube can show you online tutorials for everything from how to style your hair, to folding napkins flawlessly. If you don't know what to drink, there's plenty of apps that will help you transform the contents of the drinks cabinet, and whatever your guests bring, into cocktails. And once you're done, apps are the easiest way to summon taxis home.
The digital world also changes how we configure our social circles. If you're moving abroad, sites like InterNations and ASmallWorld offer ways to meet fellow expats and quickly integrate. Even if you're just visiting, you can experience what it's like to dine with people in their own homes through services like BookaLokal, EatWith and Feastly.
In Vietnam, one top attraction is Hanoi Street Food Tour -- booked online, of course -- where guests make new friends as they enjoy delicacies like fermented pork in street cafes. The huge array of apps, sites and services available online just make it easier to have a convivial experience here in the real world.
The dining and entertainment industry are undergoing a seismic shift, and players are tapping into the rich opportunities offered by the digital world. Social networks create new types of interactions and experiences, identifying and spreading trends quickly. Millenials' tastes can seem hard to pin down, but in fact they are having a constant conversation about what they like -- just not where the older generation is listening. The key is to engage.
And that's exactly what Absolut Nights Canada did by launching an exciting project where "makers" create an art-based platform using the Swedish premium vodka as a catalyst for cutting-edge creation. The maker movement combines traditional craft with technology -- think 3D printing, laser cutting and cool, creative robots.
Across Canada, makers shared their quirky genius with the Absolut brand by creating bar bots -- robots that serve Absolut cocktails using technologies variying from hydraulic pumps to 1980s retro joysticks -- and all manner of fun ways to transform bottles. There were also "energy whirpools", which let drinkers make a tornado-like swirl appear inside an Absolut bottle using magnets, and a piece of art made from hundreds of bottles connected with 3D-printed grips. When partygoers tweeted @AbsolutCanada, the piece would flash coloured light patterns.
The nights out were the perfect showcase for creative digital convivialité. The first two hours consisted of observing and interacting with the art, chatting to maker community, and voting for their favorite creations -- online, of course. After that, it was time for a more classic approach to partying, with a DJ getting the crowd moving. The combination of online and offline can be endlessly reinvented, and a great night out now combines refined cocktails with futuristic fun. Cheers!
One of the reasons we go out is to experience the new. A selection of the coolest bars worldwide have tapped into this, offering touchscreen tables, robot bartenders and gadgets galore. Even classic London pubs will let you order via an app now. Having a strong digital profile is absolutely essential. A clever and committed social media campaign that engages with customers creates an online community that makes pubs, club and bars more convivial.
At RedMR in Hong Kong, guests not only get to sing karaoke, but the whole table is a giant touchscreen where they can order drinks, play video games and select songs. Similar technology is a huge draw at Oshi in Limassol, Cyprus, where guests use 55'' LED screens to order food, choose from a range of virtual tablecloths, view the chefs working in real time using the "Chef Cam" and even book a taxi to go home -- in a choice of languages. At Genki Sushi, a chain which spans Japan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Singapore, not only do you use a tablet to order -- a tiny train brings the sushi to your table!
In Hong-Kong, in the Amo Eno bar specialized in rare wines that are sold per glass, inquisitive oenophiles can experience a futuristic environment that brings together technology, social media and digital design. The uniqueness of the location, designed by the architectural firm brice mau design, is that it integrated digital elements as a core part of its structure. Clients can sort out wines according to categories on the digital tables and do a live-tweet of their real-time impressions.
While there will always be a place for a familiar face behind a bar who knows customers' usual orders, these new technologies are setting the scene for an exciting new world of digital convivialité.
To learn more about the most connected bars in the world, click here: "Great technological bars across the world"
Thank you to Jérémie Moritz, Chris Bhowmik, Paul Lister, Will Pringle, Ian Mason, Ali from The Thirsty Bear, Antonia Mc Cahon, Didier Rappaport, Jane Peyton, Aaron Balick (Site) and Harry T. Reis for contributing to this article.
Managing editors : Olivier Cavil, Sylvie Machenaud
Editor in chief : Claire Hunout
Special thanks to Emmanuelle Benoist for her help
Designed & produced by ici Barbès :
Journalist: Frances Robinson (Twitter)
Photographer: Benjamin Nitot
Illustrator: Sébastien Morales
Video director: Séverine Borgella, Lionel Derimais
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