Think forward 2024: Mischief mode


Yesterday, we held a LinkedIn Live to discuss Mischief Mode – a trend from our recently released report, Think Forward: The Social Reckoning. As social media and the internet become more commoditised, users are breaking out of the sameness by channelling their rebellious spirit – to hear more about the trend, click here to watch Head of Planning James Honda-Pinder, and Planner Agalia Tan, discuss the meaning of Mischief Mode, and its significance in shaping social in 2024.

The rise of social media has revolutionised the way we connect, share, and communicate – but what was once started as a space for fun, playfulness, and creativity has become a battleground for brands, influencers, and corporations vying for users’ attention and engagement. Put simply, the internet has sold out. 

The influx of amateur advertising, sponsored content, and algorithms designed to maximise profits has, in many ways, drained the spontaneity and authenticity that initially defined social media. The old adage that as soon as a business gets involved with something, all the fun and joy are sucked out of it has never been truer. 

Amidst this commercialisation and homogenisation of online spaces, there’s a compelling counter-trend emerging. Digital natives are challenging the status quo, seeking to break free from the constraints of commercial structures that have come to define social media – by embracing mischief.

This mischief is taking shape in various senses of the word. On the one hand, the web’s unruly pupils are cooking up content that’s rebellious and challenging – the sight of the Pope in a Balenciaga puffer jacket has already fooled the world, thanks to ever-improving AI. But on the other hand, content that taps into more playful, unapologetic energy – bringing the vibe and confidence of unabashed physical play – is striking a chord with users young and old.

As brands and creators fight for space in a monotonous, monetised landscape, many are rediscovering that sometimes, the best way to be noticed is to act out.

The behavourial change

Users are rejecting normality to create disturbing narrative arcs

Surreal content was already permeating the internet, with TikTok acting as ground zero for bizarre aesthetics and nonsensical storytelling. Now, the creative work that resonates with Gen Alpha is the ultra-surreal, with Skibidi Toilets – a series of YouTube shorts about evil singing toilets – having over 10 million YouTube subscribers and a fiercely loyal fanbase amongst the 13-and-under crowd.

Creators are standing out by pushing back on category norms

From Bobbi Althoff’s captivatingly awkward interview style to de-influencers telling people what not to buy, the rules of influence are changing. As we reach peak awareness of how commodified internet culture is, some creators are rejecting smooth, subtle salesmanship in favour of content that makes people less comfortable. 

People are unapologetically harnessing #delulu energy for relatability

With a sense that the internet has become too cultivated and commodified, there’s growing traction for the creators and movements that powerfully reject this cultivation – especially through the shameless, embarrassing, or self-consciously unhinged. The #delulu movement (celebrating being intentionally delusional) has over 4 billion views, while @tubegirl has become the patron saint of unashamed confidence for her bold dance routines on public transport. 

Read more about Mischief Mode and the four other trends in Think Forward: The Social Reckoning. Watch yesterday’s Mischief Mode LinkedIn Live here.