2022 trends: Social Cynicism

In December, we launched our annual trends report – Think Forward 2022: Brave New Worlds. It features the five key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months. This post looks at the fourth trend covered in the report: Social Cynicism. For more, check out the full Think Forward report here.

Social media has become a parody of itself. Creators that call bullshit on social tropes are no longer just heroes of the fringes, but mainstream icons that match established players.

There’s long been a healthy amount of cynicism attached to the stereotypes found in our feeds. This was once reserved for macro influencers like the Kardashians – with their Facetuned images, and perceived prioritisation of clout over creativity – or for the algorithms that fill our feeds, skewing our understanding of political discourse, body image and so much more.

But now, meme admins, digital artists, and comedians are also under the magnifying glass. Challenges have become saturated and overproduced, while meme pages are slaves to engagement as dictated by platforms.

In short, people are seeking a break from the expected. And while all this might sound a little damning, think of it as a wake-up call. In this environment, newness has never looked better. It’s driving a kind of creative renaissance, for individuals and brands alike. 

Creators are pushing back against social’s status quo, using comedy and informed critique to manifest a more creative social landscape.


🤷🏿‍♂️🤷🏿‍♂️🤷🏿‍♂️#learnfromkhaby #LearnWithTikTok #ImparaConTikTok

♬ suono originale – Khabane lame

The Behavioural Change

Khaby Lame is just one of the many influencers who’s gained global fame for mocking the trends and creators he sees in his own feed. 

Shitposting 2.0.
Instagram accounts like @doyoueverjustfuckingascend are meme pages that refuse to conform to expectations, created in response to the swathes of cookie-cutter meme pages that can be found elsewhere on the platform.

Critique as content.
At the more serious end of this spectrum of cynicism, swathes of creators are using videos from other users as the subject matter for their own commentary, offering perspectives on how social tropes have enforced damaging norms around beauty, race, sexuality and more.


#stitch with @marysherb #fypシ #CurameChoreo #ShowYourGlow

♬ FVN! – LVL1

How can brands use it?

1. Brands can encourage people to push back against digital tropes.
In response to a picture perfect online food culture that’s grown both aesthetically and edibly predictable, Heinz is celebrating weird food combos with social campaign #NormaliseHeinzOnEverything – delivered with the line ‘saucy not sorry’.

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2. Brands can poke fun at themselves and the social stereotypes of their industries. One way to align with this shift is to remix or subvert typical brand behaviors online: McDonald’s recently changed all their social avatars to an intentionally bad redesign of their logo by TikToker Emily Zugay.

3. Brands can cut through in cluttered cultural moments by calling out the status quo. During Ramadan, brands speaking to Arab audiences on social tend to go big on the narratives around family. In 2021, Gucci scrapped this approach, instead opting to create a parody of traditional ‘80s Arabic soap operas.  

Read more about Social Cynicism in Think Forward 2022: Brave New Worlds here.