Cocooning is the act of insulating or hiding oneself from the normal social environment, which may be perceived as distracting, unfriendly, dangerous, or otherwise unwelcome, at least for the present. Technology has made cocooning easier than ever before. The telephone and the Internet are inventions that made possible a kind of socialized cocooning in which one can live in physical isolation while maintaining contact with others through telecommunication.
The term was popularized in the 1990s by marketing consultant Faith Popcorn in her book The Popcorn Report: The Future of Your Company, Your World, Your Life. Popcorn suggested that cocooning could be broken down into three different types: the socialized cocoon, in which one retreats to the privacy of one's home; the armored cocoon, in which one establishes a barrier to protect oneself from external threats; and the wandering cocoon, in which one travels with a technological barrier that serves to insulate one from the environment.
A common example of home-based cocooning is staying in to watch videos instead of going to the movies. Wandering cocooning is evident in those who exercise or walk around the city while being plugged in with earphones to a private world of sound. Wireless technologies such as cell phones and PDAs have added a new dimension of social cocooning to wandering cocooning by allowing people to include selected others in their mobile cocoon. Examples of armored cocooning include network firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), surveillance cameras, and spyware-blocking software applications.