Why Doesn’t Anyone Have Parties Anymore?

published Oct 8, 2015
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If you feel like you’re getting invited out to your friends’ houses less and less, it might not be you — maybe it’s just a sign of the times. According to the New York Times, house parties are a thing of the past. They’ve identified statistics that seem to show that these days, people host gatherings at their homes less and less — but why?

First, some dire numbers: the amount of high school seniors who have a never attended a party has climbed to 41.3 percent, from 11.6 percent in 1987. And it’s not just high school kids who are staying home more often: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2003 the average 18 to 24-year-old reported spending an average of 15 minutes a day, on weekends or holidays (the time a party would most likely occur), hosting or attending social gatherings. Although that doesn’t sound like a lot — only a few hours of partying a month — by 2014 that number had dropped to nine minutes per day. And the percentage of youngsters who indicated participating in these events at all dropped from 7.1 to 4.1 over the time span. (Maybe they had trouble sussing out what a ‘social gathering’ is supposed to be.)

The Times offers a few theories for this decline: one is that the price of hosting is increasing, because a generation of foodies expects fancy cheeses and craft beer instead of potato chips and Budweiser. Add to that the fact that lots of millennials, strapped for cash, live either with their parents, or in apartments too small for big gatherings, or in inconvenient locations where rent is lower. And Netflix and its ilk mean that just staying home is more appealing than ever.

But one explanation more than the others rang true to me, a millennial-ish person who used to host lots of parties but gradually stopped: while the rise of the internet and cell phones means that it’s easier to invite people to parties than ever before, it also means that it’s easier than ever before to keep your options open, and back out at the last minute.

If you think about it, in the pre-cell phone era, you either had to make plans in advance for your Friday night, or risk winding up at home doing nothing at all. It wasn’t nearly as easy to call your friends at the last minute and see what they were doing, because once people left home for the evening it was pretty much impossible to contact them. Now, instead of having phones that are connected with a particular location (Suzy’s house), we have phones that are connected with a particular person (Suzy), so you can get in touch with your friends — and maybe make last minute plans — pretty much any time. This is good for spontaneity, but bad for commitment.

It doesn’t seem so surprising, then, that millennials would eschew an activity that takes more work than ever before (if the stories about cheese plates and craft beer are to be believed) for a less predictable outcome than ever before (since the foodie friends that you spent so much time trying to please can easily change their minds and decide to go elsewhere). It’s possible that lot of would-be hosts, after weighing the investment and the risk, are deciding to just not bother.

Check out the original article on ‘The Death of the Party’ at the New York Times.