02 July 2012
Leisure is undergoing a real-time revolution. Acquiring social capital has become an instant, on the go affair and we are no longer willing to wait until the credits roll – instead we use smart technologies to showcase our status. The result is what we might term performative leisure – the consumer’s growing ability to use leisure moments as real-time records of achievement.
As we become increasingly exposed to a real-time resume of what others are doing, we are growing anxious about whether we have made the right leisure choices – a phenomenon coined as ‘a Fear of Missing Out’ (FOMO). This is propelling us to make leisure choices that earn our social and cultural cachet by simultaneously displaying events as we experience them, letting everyone else know what they are missing.
According to our research, we know that performative leisure is a trend with many followers: three in 10 25-34 year-olds in the UK have posted a status update when attending a live event and more than a third claim to have posted a live photo. Remarkably, 14% in this age group claim to have posted a photo update while having a meal out – even pizza at a local trattoria can be an event to pass on, recommend and ‘like’.
Arguably, it is television that has driven the real-time leisure revolution, with viewers invited to participate in ‘live chats’ online. Smart televisions and integrated commenting services that juxtapose real-time audience feedback with live content are now a reality.
We know that 16% of audiences express an interest in participating in live chats with fellow viewers, but can we expect these figures to grow as televisions become more sophisticated? Absolutely, because we will all want to share reactions and demonstrate that we are watching the right programme at the right moment.
But as we process dual streams of information, what are the implications for programme-makers and advertisers? Can we foresee viewers switching channels based on the instant feedback? Will some of us use commercials to review peer-posted content? And will we start measuring the success of a programme based on the numbers of tweets and updates it generates? In each case, the answer has to be yes, more than likely.
We also note that in many sectors consumers are being invited to become more than just spectators. In October 2011, Mexican football team Jaguares de Chiapas unveiled a new team kit on which names of players had been substituted for Twitter hashtags – inviting fans to tweet during games. In the UK, the Olympic beach volleyball team now plays in bikinis featuring QR codes. In 2011, Burberry became the latest brand to premier a collection virtually, encouraging fashionistas to tweet about the clothes in advance of the physical show. The message to consumers is clear. Engage in real-time leisure to optimise your experience and showcase your participation.
We believe that performative leisure will give serious energy to consumers’ desire for ‘early bird’ offers and exclusivity; for those who want to demonstrate their retail savviness, cultural credit will be accrued through posting real-time updates about previews, special deals and branded fun.
And we believe that this will be the decade in which leisure becomes smarter and, in a sense, more active. Why simply spectate when we can use real-time services to facilitate a more active form of participation? There will always be those who use leisure time to switch off, but more of us will maintain our social CV while on the go and use leisure to earn instant social status.
Dominic Harrison, head of global trends, Future Foundation