Monday, November 4, 2013

The future is here, and it is being built by young people

Although youngsters hold university degrees, they are becoming welders and joiners. They are choosing their grandfather's bicycle over having their own car. They are saying goodbye to their personal trainers and entrusting their fitness to their smartphones. They are hyper-ambitious, yet their ultimate luxury is laziness. On the one hand they like refined culture, while on the other hand, they are reverting to eating and moving like cavemen. Their virtual image is important to them but they obscure their faces on the internet. They are quite something, the young people of today!

“This is the most exciting time in human history to grow up. The rules of our parents – get good grades, work hard, climb the corporate ladder, retire – are complete nonsense. This is the time for young people to rewrite the rulebooks, invent jobs and embrace the opportunities to connect with likeminded people across the world.” These are the words of James Aviaz (30), the brains behind the magazine, Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK. James expresses very clearly the feeling many young people from his generation have.

Today's young people will need to clean up the crap from previous generations and they realise that this is no mean feat. They are looking for solutions in a remarkably pragmatic way. Not on the basis of grand ideals but by making daily contributions within the realm of what is possible for them. After all, every link in the chain counts. Young people are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and they work well together, both online and offline. They philosophise, write, make music, built, craft and program. “The future is here. We are building it. It is uncertain, but we are building it,” says Luna, from Spain, one of the young people referred to in our latest trend report. What they can offer the market is a breath of fresh air that is leaving CEOs breathless.

This positive attitude does not mean that life is a bed of roses for the millennial generation. A lot of young people are still lost. The quest for identity, which is particular to being young, remains a difficult one. And the online culture of viewing and comparing created by social networks does not take the edge off this process. What's more, although young people's expectations and the range of choices open to them are still increasing, economic conditions are unfavourable for them. Fifteen percent of all Europeas aged between 15 and 29 are missing the boat; they are dropping out of school, they don't have jobs and they are not getting any retraining.

So where do they get the energy to face the future? Young people have the best command of new technologies and digital possibilities. They have the flexbility that a rapidly changing society demands. Although they live at a fast pace, they don't let themselves just get dragged along. They understand that delivering quality requires time. And that they need to take time off every now and again, in order to maintain that fast pace. It helps them to remember what they're working on. After all, awareness enriches your life. And yes, young people are going back to yoga.

Reports of doom and gloom and tales of crisis have depressed all generations in recent decades. But not those who will be in charge tomorrow. A lot of young influencers approach life in a different way. In ways that previous generations have not always understand at first. However, this is precisely the most important characteristic of a new generation and precisely what we need for the future. Young people are the drivers of change. And the young people of today have the skills to make something good out of it.
Short description of our young consumer trends:

Total Lost

Tiny and vulnerable in a big bad world: this is a feeling that is somewhat typical for young people, but lately it has been taking a serious hold on large groups of young people. The world is spinning and changing at a blistering pace and is full of expectations and challenges. Young people are no longer able to deal with this whirlwind and are inundated by a feeling of being lost.

Subtrend Dramatique Excentric. “There is melancholy in the wind and sorrow in the grass”. There’s no way of escaping it: the storm is gathering. Social, economic and technological thunderclouds are darkening the sky above us. Young people are overcome by Sehnsucht, melancholy and nostalgia. Songs are wrapped up in black lace and feathers, dark fairytale figures can be seen strutting down the catwalk and on film, good and evil are played out against each other in an eccentric and dramatic way. This is not the time to be grey.

Raw Culture

In many aspects, it looks as though civilization has failed. Young people turn to the complete opposite as a form of reaction: the raw, barbaric, primitive that clearly has only one objective: to survive. It was already apparent last year that hunting and fishing is in again. The rawness extends even further. Fight clubs are becoming more popular, self-torture and scarification are cool, images and applied art seem trashy and cheap. Even women are displaying their roughest characteristics. Because only the fittest will survive.

Subtrends, like seapunk, paleo, female warriors, ... (read my Second Sight article on Raw)

Suspicious minds

A growing group of young people is suspicious of the society in which it lives. These young people are questioning the established rules, looking for security and trying to limit their digital footprints and tracks. Danger lurks behind every corner and the only ones who can protect you against it are you or the people you trust.

Deletion is the new default. Snapchat is a great example that youngster want to control what they share. Another sub trend is ‘De-facing’. Young people are making their profile pics unrecognisable. Not just to protect themselves. They are also making a statement against organisations like Facebook that are abusing their photographs, against compa- nies that shamelessly sift through the private lives of job applicants and employees, and against other social network users who appear at their most beautiful and congenial on the net.
Future Preparedness

Young people are resilient beings. They are not taken aback by prophecies of doom and crises. They see the future as a challenge and prepare for it. They fantasise, join forces in think tanks and are not scared of approaching things pragmatically. They are entrepreneurs with ideals, which they approach realistically.

Sub-trend: Cycle thinking.
There is an increasing awareness of product cycles and life cycles. Young people are experimenting with different ways of consumption and production, for minimum impact on their quality of life. In the case of product life cycles there are plenty more solutions than just recycling, and people are becoming more knowledgeable about all of the alternatives for raw materials, production, distribution and consumption. DIY posts on social networks and personal blogs are spreading the concepts of downcycling and upcycling. Vintage and second-hand shops are bursting with clients and new products. There are even 3D printers that melt old plastic into new products. This movement requires collaboration and it is awakening a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm.

Young makers 

Creativity and innovation are stimulated and facilitated by the Internet. But young people don’t stay put in front of their screens. In addition to 2D desktop creativity, they will also be creating in 3D - from bits and bytes to atoms - the sky being the limit.

Read my Second Sight article in ‘God is a designer’.
And take a look at Trendwolves trend implementation platform ‘’.

Time for Expertise

Access to information and knowledge has greatly improved. However, the abundance of input and fields of knowledge makes it difficult to become good at something. We need expertise, and that requires time and focus. Young people look up to experts who take the time to learn. The young people themselves go in search of their own talents and try to become as good as they can at what they do through self-education and self-monitoring. If there is a higher goal to an obsession, the obsession is tolerated.

Best two advices you can give your son.
Shut down your smartphone on your first date
Next holiday, work one week on one skill or knowledge

Sense and Sensitivity

We are living at high speed and in a demanding climate. Positive and negative information is continuously coming at us simultaneously from all directions, a large part of it in bits and bytes on some screen or other. Young people are yearning for the real world and want to smell, hear, feel and taste again. And they are even prepared to make time for this. They are fascinated by finding meaning and spirituality and they are looking for ways to incorporate this into their daily life.

The digital era has brought us to a virtual, automatic, and almost telekinetic world. We don’t even have to move to get what we want. We have the World Wide Web in our pocket, and it’s drowning us in a hypnotic and imaginary world that is constantly nurturing our brains with intense visual stimulation. In 2013 we’re stepping back for a minute to breathe, wake up, and start looking for other types of sensations that we haven’t felt in a long time. Textures, natural sounds, flavours, odours, and sometimes all of these at once. The forgotten senses will make us feel more engaged with everything that surrounds us.


Slow dreaming in a fast-moving world. Peace of mind is becoming ever more important for a generation that has constantly been encouraged to do, learn, create and share. Millennials live at high speed but stop to dream in the present and the past. Daydreaming, getting lost in your own thoughts and even doing absolutely nothing are regarded as significant activities you need to survive in this demanding society.

An example of a subtrend is: ‘The beauty of boredom’. We have heard about ‘binge chilling’, the ‘procrastination lounge’ and the ‘useless web’. They all look like activities that don’t aim to put the mind on hold, but just to put it in default – a vital spur for creativity. So, if we want to evolve and find our answers, we’d better spend some time doing boring stuff.

Grimes described the production of her last album as “equally enjoyable and tortuous”. She wrote the album after spending nine days in isolation: “After nine days you have no stimulation, so your subcon- scious starts filling in the blanks. I started to feel like I was channelling spirits. I was convinced my music was a gift from God. It was like I knew exactly what to do next, as if my songs were already written” German fashion designer Felix Boehm presented his 2012 Resort collection in a five-minute video dedicated to boredom. A girl and a boy spend the time doing boring activities with bored but satisfied expressions.

The future is here. And the kids are building it. They will start writing love letters again.

The power of young entrepreneurs and influencers is disruptive for our society. We need them to follow their dream and to rethink culture. I think that during the next years a new generation will rise with different ideas on work, consumption, culture and values.

We, as trendwatchers, don’t have the time to only observe, we need to act and tell the story. Ideas are contagious. We must help this new movement to develop.


Tom Palmaerts, Trendwatcher and Partner at Trendwolves HQ, will present Youth Trends at the 2013 Foresight and Trends event on Nov. 13-15, in Los Angeles.

* Republished from original by permission of the author.

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