It’s been a big week for what I refer to as “Hermit Tech.” Stock in technology companies that facilitate working from home have soared in a spiraling market otherwise anxious by an impending coronavirus pandemic. Netflix is preparing for the server strain of the bored but quarantined masses. Expensive Peloton stationary bikes and streaming workout services are seeing substantial spikes in interest. Tech guides are popping up suggesting everything from noise-canceling headphones, Wi-Fi signal boosters, and productivity hacks for families who’ll need to make close quarters work and life livable.
As a Hermit Tech aficionado, this makes sense. I’m a Times employee living in Montana and so social distancing is closer to the status quo for me than I care to admit. I work from home. I show my disheveled face in meetings via Zoom and Skype and Google Hangouts. I FaceTime my therapist, who practices in New York City, where I used to live. I chat endlessly with co-workers, sources and friends via Slack and 49,000 other direct messaging channels. Recently, my partner and I calculated that we’d save on gym membership if we splurged upfront on a $2,245 Peloton. Hermit Tech has made my (definitely not typical) life wildly efficient. Thanks to technology, human contact has unexpectedly become a luxury I can choose to seek out.
And my lifestyle is a luxury. I’m incredibly fortunate to have an employer that allows remote work and to have access to the sometimes expensive tools that help me get my job (and even mental health treatment) done. The same goes for the disposable income that allows for the bike and Amazon Prime. I don’t use Instacart or DoorDash for delivery (mostly on principle after pieces like this from my Times colleagues) or need a service like Wag for an on-demand dog walker, but those services are accessible to me, should I want them. Partly because Silicon Valley has been building them for someone just like me for the last decade.