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What the Disappearing Dining Room Reveals About American Culture

There is a room in my house that is known by everyone as the “Thanksgiving Room.” According to the blueprints for the house, it was originally designed to be a dining room — but its revised name reflects its utility. Used mainly once in November for actual dining, the rest of the year it is never used that way. Instead, it’s an organizing table for large book mailings, or a worktable for curating trends that I’ll write about, or some other family project.

The waning need for a room specifically for dining, with or without guests, isn’t just something happening in our family. It turns out there are plenty of homes and apartments that are skipping this once necessary room and dedicating the space to other pursuits. This may not just be a young person’s choice for a crowded apartment either. As new stories of boomers who’d rather spend $100k to renovate their homes start to emerge too, this trend towards losing the very concept of a formal dining room with place settings and tradition may be an early signal of a larger shift in American culture.

As the popularity of mukbang continues and loneliness rises, perhaps the dining room was an inevitable casualty of a modern lifestyle that keeps many people too busy or isolated to share a meal at home together. Even if we were to fight to keep the tradition of a dining room, unfortunately it’s clear this would be unlikely to reverse this cultural shift.

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In addition to Non-Obvious Thinking, Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

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