2020 Macro Trend: Collective Culture

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Communities are at the core of everything we do and continue to emerge all around us. Now, in the midst of a global pandemic, our very notions of community are being challenged. With most of the world in isolation, we are forced to redefine community and connect with one another in new, innovative ways.

Social distancing efforts have pushed people to connect online and it is transforming the concept of social media as we know it. Once fueled by misinformation, excess consumerism, and mental health concerns, social media seems to finally be doing what we originally intended for it to do: bring us together. With consumers around the world spending significantly more time on their smartphones, projects like The Social Distancing Project and Quarantine Chat are fostering real, authentic human connections. Even prior to the pandemic, people were ready for a shift from many connections to more meaningful ones. In a March 2019 post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg declared privacy to be the next major social media trend. In an article for Harvard Business Review titled “The Era of Antisocial Social Media,” Sara Wilson explores the trend toward smaller, more specialized online communities, breaking them down into three distinct categories: private messaging, micro-communities, and shared experiences. These three types of communities are set to change the way we interact with one other and the world around us for years to come.

In times of crisis, people search for the stability and safety that comes with having something to believe in. It’s human nature to want to feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, and for many, this feeling comes from religion. COVID-19 has sparked a resurgence in religious practices. According to the Pew Research Center, in a survey of 11,537 adults conducted March 19–24, more than half of American adults say they have prayed for an end to the spread of the coronavirus. Google searches for prayer have surged in the past few months, now at their highest volume since 2015. But, not everyone finds solace in organized religion. As the younger generation embraces nonconformist views on identity and gender, the lack of inclusivity demonstrated by traditional religious systems can be a turn-off. Instead, they find their faith in less rigid forms of spirituality. Magnifying the economic, environmental, and political anxieties of our time, COVID-19 has pushed more people to seek answers in the stars.

Large organizations and shared belief systems satisfy our desire for belonging, but so do smaller, less formal community structures. Our chosen tribes are just as, if not more important than the ones we’re born into. They are the people we face some of the world’s most pressing challenges with. Throughout history, subcultures have emerged from a group’s inability to fit in. By challenging the status quo, these communities push culture forward. Once an outlier, skate culture has permeated mainstream culture in a way that many other subcultures are unable to. The fascination with this effortlessly cool community became apparent in 2018 when three films on the topic hit screens, and continues today with the release of a new HBO series called Betty. Streetwear giant Supreme is proof of the subculture’s mainstream success. What started as a clubhouse for New York City skaters has become a trailblazer of streetwear and the culture surrounding it. By embracing the communities built around niche interests, we can support the evolution of our culture and create a society that better represents everyone within it.

MICRO TRENDS

People are craving closeness at a time when being close is the one thing we cannot do. As many crises do, COVID-19 has pushed people to find new, innovative ways to connect with people given the tools at their disposal. Once fueled by misinformation, excess consumerism, and mental health concerns, social media seems to finally be doing what it was originally intended to do as it slowly transforms into a tool for creating real, authentic human connections.

In times of uncertainty, people search for the stability and safety that comes with having something to believe in. Now, as we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, this search is being satisfied with a resurgence of religion and spirituality. Astrology has emerged as a place of faith, free of judgment, and has enjoyed broad cultural acceptance for several years now. COVID-19 has only magnified the economic, environmental, and political anxieties of our time, pushing more people to seek answers in the stars.

Throughout history, subcultures have emerged from a group’s inability to fit in. Forgotten by the mainstream, individuals create communities based on niche interests and shared experiences. Built on a foundation of inclusivity, these communities are able to give their members what they are unable to find elsewhere: a sense of belonging. But as they grow, they take on an even more important role, as they often shape the very culture they sought to distance themselves from.

Humans are fundamentally social animals that crave a sense of belonging, mission, and meaning. If a company can shift from selling a product to building a community, it can unlock a number of competitive advantages. Now, with most of the world in isolation and purchases being delayed, brands have the opportunity to cultivate these online communities at a time when consumers are especially engaged.

BY THE NUMBERS

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