Domestic Cozy: 12

This entry is part 12 of 13 in the series Domestic Cozy

Ever since the coronavirus crisis broke out, multiple people have been telling me I “called it” with this domestic cozy blogchain. I didn’t. What I did call out is a longer-term soft trend caused by unrelated forces — social, cultural, and economic — that happens to be eerily well-harmonized with the necessary hard response to a pandemic. We’re entering an enforced condition of what I call hard cozy, which is acting like a strong tailwind for the domestic cozy trend already underway. This picture popped into my head thinking about our current state (I’m also reminded of my 2014 post, Demons by Candlelight).

Enforced or voluntary, soft or hard, one way or another a vast fraction of humanity is suddenly being forced to discover The Great Indoors.

There are two important differences between the domestic cozy ethos I’ve been tracking and the hard cozy condition we’re now in.

  1. First, the retreat to domesticity that is being triggered by the pandemic is, to varying degrees an enforced retreat. Enforced by some mix of guns, fear, shame, bug-in altruism, and bug-out survivalism.
  2. Second, the rigorous sanitization measures — social distancing, hand-washing, prophylactic “vampire” sneezing — are what put the hard in hard cozy.

Hard cozy is to domestic cozy what war is to diplomacy. If one parent of hard cozy is existing domestic cozy subcultures, the other parent is semiconductor manufacturing cleanrooms.

A much-RTed tweet captures the mood among those of us who were already in the soft-and-voluntary retreat mode.

There’s an obvious 2×2 here. Soft vs. hard, opt-in vs. enforced.

There’s also an obvious risk of hard cozy sliding into authoritarianism that we should all be cognizant of, even as we accept temporary war-like conditions.

Already, in the US, traditional left-populist ideas like direct economic relief for the general population are being rapidly co-opted by right-populist thought trends and being re-imagined along predictable ethno-nationalist lines, starting with a battle over the politics of calling this the “Wuhan virus” or “the Chinese virus.” Fun fact: did you know that back in the day, syphilis was variously known as the French disease, Italian disease, Christian disease, or New World disease, depending on the politics of the speaker. And the Spanish flu of 1918 didn’t originate in Spain. That just happened to be the only country where the press talked about it openly. As a neutral country in World War I, they didn’t restrict reporting. If you think all this is ancient history, consider that the US and China have engaged in tit-for-tat journalist expulsions.

Already the feel of public spaces is what it felt like in Chile when I visited a few years ago — much of human life happening in domestic spaces, with public spaces curiously lifeless and listless. We’ll see where all this goes. I’m putting that subplot on my watchlist, but will be tracking it elsewhere, on my Weirding Diary blogchain.

I want to re-index another thing with extra weight, and link it to domestic cozy and hard cozy. Last May, I wrote about the digital side of domestic cozy in passing, dubbing it the cozyweb in my Extended Internet Universe newsletter issue on breaking smart (I don’t think I linked it into this blogchain, I don’t know why). Here’s the map I made at the time.

This map is going to get significantly altered by the effects of the pandemic by the time we’re done. Note how videoconferencing things like Zoom aren’t even on this map yet.

I’ll be tracking the private, sociocultural micro-response to the pandemic mostly on this blogchain. For the macro stuff, including politics, you might want to track the Weirding Diary blogchain. If you’re in the gig economy, I’ll be tracking some of the practical consequences for me and my tribe on my Art of Gig newsletter. The tech and futures side is going to show up strongly in my Breaking Smart newsletter.

So yeah, everything I write for the foreseeable future is going to be pandemic -aware in one way or another.

So those of you who weren’t already in domestic cozy mode, welcome to the Great Indoors. Wash your hands and settle in. This ain’t as bad as you think. You just need to develop an appreciation for the pleasures of indoor life. For starters you might want to catch up on this blogchain from the beginning, which was just over a year ago (March 4, 2019).

Series Navigation<< Domestic Cozy: 11Domestic Cozy: 13 >>

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. Yep. My 17 year old daughter and I have already purchased some new jigsaw puzzles (online). They depict idyllic outdoor scenes. Daughter actually slid into domestic cozy from a hard cozy situation 2 years ago whereby she couldn’t sit or stand up for a full month due to the flareup of a then about-to-be-diagnosed neuro. condition which she inherited from me. Upon recovery (and to ensure sustained recovery, along with psychological equilibrium), she adopted the domestic cozy lifestyle. It’ll be interesting to see if a chunk of the general population do the same following this global crisis; I guess it will partly depend on how grim this hard cozy experience eventually becomes (among multiple other factors).

  2. Here’s an old-fashioned concept to review: People were once admired for their “inner resources”: things like creativity, intelligence, confidence, courage, or passion, but also patience, persistence, calmness. I’m fairly certain I ran across this phrase in a 19th century context. It’s filed in my brain with Anne Shirley and E.M. Forster, burying children under the age of 5, war, long periods of isolation caused by westward settlement/sea journeys/chronic illness. I had a hard cozy childhood without many peers, and self-involved parents. I reframed to domestic cozy via my art/craft projects and books – Little House and Anne of Green Gables in particular. I draw on those models of how to cope all. the. time., but particularly when external difficulties requiring patience arise. I am actually cheerful these days, because I have tools for this…but so many clearly don’t! In the interest of getting something personally valuable out of noticing the difference, I see in myself that it’s harder to remember that I have IR when my personal road gets rough.
    So right now I’m interested in figuring out what the difference is between mass-scale-patience-demanding stress, and whatever it is that puts me personally low on a more usual basis. I want to construct a reminder for myself to tap into my inner resources – if you will, a “go domestic cozy” threshold alarm. Besides the 19th c authors (besides 19thc, my list is predominantly female: add L.M. Alcott, Jane Austin), I’m finally going to read Victor Frankl directly, though of course many people have repackaged his ideas.

  3. Ari Markowitz says

    Not entirely relevant, but I was amused to hear the following lines in “Molecules” by Aesop Rock (from 2016):
    “It’s not a gentleman’s game, it’s a generation braced accordingly
    Who know the differences between the cozy and the quarantine”
    I don’t entirely know what Aesop meant by that line (as with most of his lyrics), but it’s a pretty surprising coincidence.