The Meta Trends are invaluable in identifying where the collective, trend forecaster psyche is at.
But as we learned in a five year look back: biases thrive, agendas direct, risk is feared, quantification is scarce and toxic optimism influences.
Deeper, as we learned in a series of exercises with AI: analyzed cultural data reveals what we humans think is most important, may not actually be the case.
All of this Meta Trend work is predicated upon industry trend reports... which, as we’re learning, may not be as dependable as we once hoped.
The Meta Trends are insightful, but they and the industry reports used to get there, leave us with an incomplete picture of what’s driving culture forward.
Only with friction, daringness and originality, can we analyze the sharp edges and fringes of culture that have influence. The weak, the uncomfortable and the complex help color our picture of the future.
As we uncovered, AI can be helpful in discovering overlooked micro-trends which were hidden within the one million words of analyzed reports. However, many of these discoveries are things: Gut Health, Fluid Fashion, Privacy Enhancing Tech, etc.
What we also need to augment is our ability to identify more nuanced, emotional overlooked trends. But this is a task a human can do best. Creative extrapolation is our superpower.
So to identify the overlooked, we can use the Meta Trends as filters seek out what’s not surfaced.
But we can also use these Meta Trends in another way...
Sarah DaVanzo and I created a framework to spin out unique perspectives of any existing trend.
4X Interrogative Questions
_ To Identify the Overlooked
Outside = What is an outsider’s POV or experience?
Other Side = What is the inverse or contradictory tension?
Dark Side = What is the malicious or distressing angle?
Back Side = What is the devious or inappropriate twist?
Interrogating non-obvious dimensions of even the most trite, overly reported trends can reveal new ideas, threats and opportunities.
For example, let’s use the most reported trend for 2022: Eco- Everything: a continued obsession with sustainability and an integration of green-thinking into all products and services.
Applying the 4X Interrogative Questions we get:
How are those on the equator signaling new norms of climate migration? → What does this reveal about the effects of climate on the less prepared, mobile or privileged?
Other Side =
How do consumers reckon with still opting in for two-day shipping amidst climate marches? → What does this reveal about a fear of sacrifice and collective cognitive dissonance?
Dark Side =
How are therapists managing to counsel those with onset climate anxiety, a new diagnosis? → What does this reveal about the spillover, emotional toll of something once believed to just be a physical crisis?
Back Side =
How do we account for the carbon footprint of online porn? → How can we speak to the stigmatized and uncomfortable drivers of humanitarian risk?
By using this framework, we can open the door to new, often overlooked components of any cultural discussion.
We net out with valuable trailheads to then explore.
Call them insights, counter-trends, or just components of the original trend itself — it makes no difference. These are simply elements of culture that should be acknowledged.
To continue this exercise, let’s go through all 14x 2022 Meta Trends to reveal some critical, often overlooked pieces of the puzzle.
01. Eco- Everything ♻️
Overlooked = Sustainable living is unaffordable for many, climate migration will be unachievable for a growing elderly population, and paper straws and PR plays are jokes to Gen Z
02. Digital Default 🌐
Overlooked = 27.6M U.S. households still don't have home internet, motion sickness and wanting to know what’s behind us still curbs VR adoption, and our desire to experiment with identity runs deep
03. xX~VIBES~Xx 🍄
Overlooked = Indigenous communities are being destroyed from drug tourism, vibe-therapeutics only address the surface level of social trauma, and bad trips and high-THC will ironically exacerbate mental health issues
04. Radical Inclusivity 🌎
Overlooked = Many are frozen, genuinely unsure how to appropriately participate, deadly racism remains omnipresent and largely unaddressed at an institutional-level, and are dating apps designed to facilitate discrimination with race filters?
05. Kid’ing 🪁
Overlooked = A generation just skipped a pivotal developmental period of play, humor and nuance (our greatest assets) keep dividing us, and joking amidst a backdrop of complete devastation can feel complicated
06. Home Hubs 🏠
Overlooked = For some, more time at home means more abuse, young adults can’t even afford a “Home Hub,” and as co-living thrives, brining home sexual partners — which is already declining — becomes even more difficult
07. Algo_Minded 🧠
Overlooked = Parents struggle to limit screen time, which stunts young adults’ social lives, McMindfulness has capitalism seeping into our wellness and dreams, and analog sex and companionship remain undefeated in brining mental relief
08. Renews & Reinventions 💭
Overlooked = It’s a privilege to drop out — but those who most want to can’t, what happens when YOLO savings run out and startups fail?, and how quickly will employees return to a 9-to-5 in-office job when there’s economic uncertainty?
09. Virtual Valuables 🔑
Overlooked = Almost everyone wants to be an expert and “new things” are an easy topic, grifters can find ways to infiltrate and exploit any technology, and there remains scarce practical case studies of “world-changing tech” here
10. Now! Now! NOW! 🛒
Overlooked = You only lose from bad commerce experiences — rarely winning from average or good ones, deals are the only consistent predictor of loyalty, and predictive commerce may be too fast and uncomfortable for many
11. Me Inc. 💼
Overlooked = People with personal brands are struggling to launch personal businesses, financial illiteracy is failing us, and sex-work is minting a new class of millionaires overnight
12. Sounds Good 🔊
Overlooked = Overcrowded growing cities are victims of noise pollution, how do the 360M hearing impaired globally participate here?, and erotic audio is soothing millions to bed
13. Op-purr-tunity 🐩
Overlooked = We are seeing pets as replacements to children and spouses, stigmatization and restrictions remain across establishments (parks, bars, theaters, etc.), and animal abuse has risen alongside pet adoptions
14. Feed University 🎓
Overlooked = The line between expert and amateur is razor thin, academic institutions are struggling for relevance, and this is only jet fuel to our existing mis- and disinformation dilemmas
These overlooked components are not comprehensive by any means — and arguably some may be obvious — but they offer a splice of critical nuance that’s missing from our daily trend conversations.