Cultural shifts to watch in 2022

From enjoyment and representation to regeneration, dismantling the system and the metaverse, Canopy Insight's Victoria Gerstman gives us five cultural trends for the year ahead

From the death of fun to embracing enjoyment

Promises of a return to normalcy in 2021 bore temporary fruit, with several months of cautiously optimistic summer socializing (see “vax girl summer”) before the arrival of new variants began to hit home. Even in the halcyon days of this apparent reprieve, the ongoing tragedy of the COVID19 pandemic made people reluctant to shout too exuberantly. In 2022, expect to see a rejection of stoicism and the re-emergence of fun and pleasure as goals in their own right, not in spite of the reality of life during a pandemic, but in celebration of living.

Two key areas where we expect to see the re-emergence of enjoyment are in dating and travel.

New dating apps like Bounce and Thursday encourage spontaneous, in-the-moment approaches to dating, rather than overthinking. Travel brands are also advocating for getting back out there. For example Japanese airline Peach’s all-you-can-fly “Peach Hodai” pass and Alaska Airlines “Vaxxed and back in action” campaign.


From hero worship to authentic representation

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that, while we may all be in the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat. Excessively upbeat messaging and communications that glamorize hardship strike the wrong tone. A desire for realness will continue to permeate in 2022, including authentically addressing the everyday experiences of people living with disability.

This kind of realistic expression is less about valorization and more about acceptance, education, and understanding.

  • Channel 4’s 2020 GB Paralympics campaign, “Super. Human.”, (released in August 2021 for the delayed Tokyo Paralympics) played on 2012’s “Meet the Superhumans,” while simultaneously ushering a shift from glorifying disability to a more balanced portrayal – showing wins and successes as well as challenges.
  • Influencers are tackling unrealistic representations of living with disability (including “inspiration porn”) by sharing their everyday experiences, e.g. Erin Novakowski (@wheelierin, below), who says “I love getting a little spicy with my content and talking about embarrassing things like getting blackout drunk or getting ghosted by boys, because abled people always assume disabled people don’t experience normal things like that”
@wheelierin

i am posting this in advance i know people are gonna get angy soon 😗✌️

♬ i been secretly banging ur homeboy – 😵

From sustainability to regeneration

In 2022, regenerative approaches will move into the mainstream and regenerative practice will become legitimized, replacing sustainability as the gold standard for planet-conscious consumers.

Be on the lookout for planet-first discourse that aims to reverse damage and heal the earth (rather than focusing on prolonging human survival on earth).


From IDEA after the fact to dismantling inequitable systems

2021 saw the acronym IDEA move into mainstream dialogues. Working to create more equitable environments, however, has often been approached from a post-hoc perspective, patching over or amending existing systems rather than reconsidering why such systems exist in the way they do.

In 2022, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access will move to the forefront, becoming essential rather than “nice to have,” with innovative brands and organisations disrupting, dismantling, and rebuilding existing systems.

  • The Black Apothecary Office (BAO, below) is an e-commerce platform and accelerator program working to “correct historical lack of opportunity”.
  • OutInTech helps LGBTQ+ people advance in tech-based careers, promoting the diversification of the tech industry as a chance to “innovate new ideas products and platforms”.

Welcome to the metaverse (you might not know you’re here)

In October 2021 Facebook became “Meta,” and the world let out a collective groan. Mark Zuckerberg’s cringe-inducing mannerisms aside, the announcement was a timely reminder that the “metaverse” is already here. Much like the slow and steady advent of a completely connected, Internet enabled society, we expect 2022 to bring the metaverse further into our daily lives. This could be anything from Augmented Reality to crypto to NFTs.

Like it or not, the metaverse is where we live now.

Gaming will continue to lead the charge into the metaverse, for example Roblox’s Insomniac World Party (above), its first metaverse music festival. The fashion and art worlds are also on board, as seen in Penguin x TikTok NTFs and Wynwood Studios NFT Art Party Exhibition (below) at Miami Art Week.

Meanwhile, metaverse platforms like Highstreet and Anybodies provide starting points for both brands and individuals to enter the metaverse.

Featured image: Anybodies.io

Victoria Gerstman

Victoria is Americas Lead at Canopy Insight, a cultural insight consultancy. She works closely with clients to deliver actionable results through in-depth cultural analysis. Born and raised in Miami, she has lived in the US, UK, and Japan and brings a multi-national perspective to cultural insight. Victoria started her career in research at media agencies in NY and London before leaving the industry to get her PhD. Today, she enjoys using academic methods to drive tangible business results.

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