I found this thought exercise in the book Happy by Derren Brown.
Imagine suddenly everyone disappears, but all of the world’s infrastructure and food supply magically continues to work. So you are the only person on Earth and you don’t have to worry about finding food/water/shelter. What would you do all day?
It’s a forcing function to make us realize how much of our behavior is driven by status seeking. It might be fun to drive a Ferrari and live in a mansion with no one around to stop you. You could sleep in the Oval Office! But without anyone else to see it, what’s the point? Once the novelty wore off, what would be left?
Would I still exercise or eat well if I didn’t have anyone to look good for? Would I still want a nice house, or would I end up somewhere tiny and easy to clean? Would I even care about cleaning if nobody was around to think I’m a slob? Would I have hobbies with no one to try to impress or even talk to about them? Would I travel to beautiful places if I had no one to share them with? Would I bother taking pictures of those places if no one else could see them?