Byte-Size | Trend Digest #4 | January 2023


Welcome back to We Are Social’s monthly social and cultural trend digest, taking you deep into the belly of the internet.

This month has been dominated by ChatGPT, the Cozzie Livs, a burst of nostalgia for legacy tech and a bunch of women who dare to command public attention past their forties. Let’s go. 

1. Cozzie Livs Rules Everything Around Me

If you are a human who spends money, you’ve likely encountered the global cost of living crisis – recently crowned the cozzie livs.

We’re seeing the financial pinch play out in a bunch of ways across the social landscape: 

On TikTok, it’s hot to be frugal right now.  Hot Broke Girls Meals, simple recipes you can create on a tight budget are going viral. Recession-core is taking over fashion TikTok with a move towards more discrete luxury and minimalist styling. Dupe Mindset is a trend where creators head to their favourite discount department stores and celebrate low cost items as replacements for more premium ones. Obviously a dupe mindset is your key to happiness in the cozzie livs. 

In the beauty retail space, we’re seeing influencer-led brands fall out of favour with consumers. Buyers are becoming savvier, researching products and substantiating claims before purchase, and influencers peddling beauty products are not always passing the test as experts.  

What does this mean for marketers? Consumers are actively hunting for ways to be frugal. If you make content, consider how you can offer utility by unearthing fresh and fun ways people can save a buck. The trick here is to avoid the well worn – you won’t get any points for telling people things they already know. When you’re casting  influencers to tell your brand story, consider how you can select influencers who bring genuine credibility and have strong audience trust, rather than just looking great on your feed. 

2. ChatGPT has quietly changed the game

This month, ChatGPT has officially arrived in the consciousness of the mainstream media. The big conversation is around its impact on the educational space, where the essay format is a fundamental piece of how students have historically been taught to think, research and write. If a machine can write an essay for you, how does education change? It’s a question you’re going to hear more about. 

An Aussie uni lecturer shared that she’s seeing an increasing volume of essay submissions which have had ‘substantial AI interference’, sparking concerns over academic integrity and fair student assessment, but computer science experts and universities themselves say the technology is the beginning of a new era of learning – where AI tools are used hand in hand with subject matter expertise. It’s not cheating per se, it’s just a new way of doing things. 

Of course, we’ve seen a number of eye-opening conversations as the ethics of AI is brought into sharp focus for the general public. The conservative media have their knickers in a knot over ChatGPT being too woke. Nick Cave has described ChatGPT as “a grotesque mockery of what it is to be human”, because he insists that all art must be born of suffering, and machines can’t suffer. Ok boomer. A Time investigation has revealed that OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, paid Kenyan workers less than $2 an hour to filter through tens of thousands of lines of text to help make its chatbot safer to use – which is a continuation of a theme of human labour exploitation for mass market digital platforms. 

So, ChatGPT is a big old Pandora’s box, and now she’s well and truly open. Fun. 

What does this mean for marketers? With better implementation of better AI, there comes a raft of benefits for consumers. But it’s so important as marketers to make sure we follow best practice in responsible use of AI. This includes stuff like disclosing use of AI, guarding user privacy and actively working to mitigate bias in any AI models we create.

3. Gen Z and the Walkmanaissance

Sony has just released a fresh addition to its Walkman family, 44 years after the original version redefined how a generation listened to music. The price tag is eye watering, and you can set its touch screen display to look just like a cassette. Earlier this month The New York Times highlighted how the hottest Gen Z accessory at the minute is a digital camera, and young celebs are wearing bulky over-ear headphones around their neck as fashion accessories.

It seems the obsession is twofold. On the one hand there’s a cosy aesthetic connection – the same impulse that has millennials investing in record players. Owning legacy tech is storytelling where you’re the main character, connecting you to a rich vein of pop culture history.  

However, the more current trend driving legacy tech adoption is a push from Gen Z to put their phones down and connect with the world around them. In the UK, teens are heading out to clubs with burner phones, and in the US they’re forming Luddite Clubs, where they touch the grass and indulge in analogue pursuits as a community. 

Teens have shared that they feel overwhelmed by the time suck of social media, and this week Instagram have responded with a suite of ‘Quiet Mode’ tools to help people focus, and to encourage people to set boundaries with friends and followers. It will be interesting to see how technology companies respond to this tension in the attention economy, when for so long the business model has been about keeping you glued to your device. 

What does this mean for marketers? Superficially, if you’re a brand creating stylised visual content, consider how you can tap into this trend by featuring legacy tech in your creative. On a deeper level, is there a way your brand can facilitate your audience taking a minute off the digital rat wheel? 

4. Girls Women on Top

It’s been a good month for women of a certain age. Jennifer Coolidge bagged a Golden Globe for her beloved performance in HBO anthology series The White Lotus, and Michelle Yeoh won for her leading role in A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once. Both actors are in their sixties, both delivered acceptance speeches that made headlines. “I turned 60 last year, and I think all of you women understand this, as the days, the years, and the numbers get bigger, it seems like opportunities start to get smaller as well,” said Yeoh, in a message that resonated beyond the entertainment industry. 

Elsewhere, Madonna has announced a world tour celebrating her 40 years as an artist, Paris Hilton is freshly relevant as the face of NBC’s Paris Olympics campaign (c’est chaud!), and Shakira has gone wildly viral with a trolling campaign targeting her ex-husband, who I am reliably informed is a cheating scumbag who let his mistress eat Shakira’s jam

It looks like 2023 is going to be a big year for women – even ones who dare to exist past the age of 40. 

What does this mean for marketers? In an industry obsessed with youth, is it possible that our audiences are actually hanging out for some older faces – who are allowed to be more than cuddly nannas or hopeful mothers?  I mean yes, obviously, it’s not a new idea. But maybe we’re at a critical point of change. Cast an older woman today. 

Zoh Dowling is an Associate Editorial Director at We Are Social Australia.