Trend Three: Margin-chasers

At the end of last year, we launched our annual trends report- Think Forward 2023: Fragmented Futures. It features the five key trends that we expect to shape social media over the next 12 months. This post looks at the third trend covered in the report: Margin-chasers. For more, check out the full Think Forward report here. 

On social, extreme behaviour is seen as more authentic, gaining traction and cutting through.

As rising cynicism makes it increasingly difficult to come off as genuine, authenticity has become a game of chicken, pushing people to behave more and more unusually in order to be seen as true believers – rather than mere posers.

This explains why self-expression is moving to extremes: in the post-genuineness internet, extreme now equates to believability. Incredibly niche interests are persuasive and deeply weird and chaotic energy is relatable.

For any brand or individual that wants to embody realness, the margins have become the only safe place to be. 

The Behavioural Change

1. People are zooming all the way into the niche
The more specific your interest, the more genuine it seems. This explains the ever-expanding list of digital micro-communities (weirdcore, goblincore, bubblegum witch) and the increasing cultural clout of precise, weird interests.

2. People are pushing all the way out to the fringes
The more intense your energy, the more genuine it seems – hence the mainstreaming of ‘chaos’, exaggerated tones like ‘suburban sensationalism’, the genuine adoration of Julia Fox.

3. People feel judged for occupying the ‘middle ground’ rather than the extremes
The middle ground is scorched earth – it’s why there was no worse insult on TikTok than calling someone ‘mid’ (meaning: middling); now people are dramatising the mundane. 

Brand examples

Learn from Valentino
Valentino’s recent model was TikTok’s ‘potato girl’, whose authenticity stems from all genres of extreme behaviour: not only is potato fandom niche, but it’s practised with a commitment to weirdness and intensity reminiscent of ‘suburban sensationalism’.

@poppycooks well this was surreal @valentino @polyesterzine 🥔👀 #potato #model #valentino ♬ super freaky girl x luxurious – xxtristanxo

Learn from Gucci x Balenciaga
In their collaboration called The Hacker Project, the two luxury houses went to the extreme of faux-vandalising each others’ shop fronts. For Gucci, this loud statement didn’t come out of nowhere: it’s an extension of the brand’s longstanding fascination with authenticity, appropriation and counterfeit culture. 

Read more about Margin-chasers, and the four other trends featured in Think Forward 2023: Fragmented Futures.