Think forward

Last year, we emerged from the pandemic into a new online landscape. IRL and URL life were already impossibly entangled, and much was on the horizon: metaverses in which to wile away our days, NFTs to deck the walls of digital houses, crypto wallets for paying for goods and services in virtual malls.

Even then, social was a composite of many worlds – from the anti-establishment anarchy of r/WallStreetBets to the peaceful, pastoral gameplay of Animal Crossing. But even if it was starting to crack, there was still a sense of shared reality: a communal space at the intersection of these worlds.

But this year, what was cracked has now shattered into many segmented realities. An accurate vision of the future is now less like looking through a telescope, more like looking through a kaleidoscope: it’s coming through as several diverse fragments, not one single perspective.

In this fragmented space, online factions are carving out their own customs, niches, and territories – their own marginal worlds that have the power to become the mainstream.

On a social level, gone are the days of feeds clustered around friends and family – here are the days of For You Pages guided by individual interests. On a cultural level, gone is the universal watercooler chat dictated by shared popular culture – today’s agenda is set by ever-more niche and transient corners of the internet. And on a personal level, identities are more layered and fluid than ever before, more like an ‘avatar du jour’ than a static understanding of self.

In this context, there are new needs. Brands have learned best practice for a world that’s polarised, but what about a world that's atomised?

Once, we platformed new voices; now we must learn to speak across niches. We found our values; now we must adapt them for a splintering world, without diluting what we stand for. We immersed ourselves in distinct subcultures; now we must appeal to people whose interests overlap and contradict.

As the many paths of the internet fan out, this serves up an infinite number of worlds. With these worlds come infinite opportunities to sink – or to swim.


We are a global socially-led creative agency, with unrivalled social media expertise.

With 1,000+ people in 16 offices spanning four continents, we deliver a global perspective to our clients in a time when social media is shaping culture.

We make ideas powered by people. We understand social behaviours within online communities, cultures and subcultures, spanning the social and gaming landscape.

We work with the world’s biggest brands, including adidas, Samsung, Meta and Google, to reach the right people in a strategic, relevant and effective way.

Think Forward 2023 was researched and written by We Are Social's global Cultural Insights team.

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