Our societies find it easy to judge the past and its actors while we fail to understand or even see what is happening here and now. We are undergoing a seismic change in culture moving from print and linear thinking into metauniverse. The overarching narrative is shifting. Where are we heading?

“The Era of Monomass” June 2020 is an in-depth trend report, published by Dazed Studio, London based firm that claims to forecast the influential forces shaping youth culture. It shares a guide for how global brands need to adapt to be successful.

Osy Milian "Podłączony"/"Connected", www.instagram.com/osymilian1/

The studio founded in 2015; “puts brand partners at the centre of global youth culture, creating innovative, purpose-driven campaigns and content experiences across Dazed Media.” Their clients include brands such as Adidas, Channel 4, Huawei, Nike, YouTube Music among others. Their page welcomes us with a sign:

We don’t reflect culture. We create it.

So, what culture do they create?

The 2020 report was based on the consultations with the Millennials and Gen Z who are Dazed audience (over 3500 members). It pooled the largest number of interviewees among USA, United Kingdom and Chinese readers. There was also a contribution from a panel of fifteen expert voices from across fashion, technology, culture, trend forecasting and media, some of them employed by the Dazed studio. The final report was created by Studio’s Creative Strategist Izzy Farmiloe and insight consultant Rhianna Cohen.

“Monomass” is a term coined by the Dazed Studio to describe hyper-individualism and mass trends existing comfortably side by side.”

The findings say that the youth defines itself by their interests such as style (66%) and music (65%). The tribe has been made redundant. Movements and socially led values are shaping contemporary culture and having a clear point of view, ethics and purpose are key in making brands influential.


Most of the interviewees are part of the Generation Z; the most recent generation to have been named and researched. One of the most distinguished features of this group is that they learn about the world through digital means

According to Statista, business data platform members of this group will not be able to remember a time before smartphones and social media. This group is loosely defined as the one of those born between the 1997 and 2012. It already makes up around 20.35 percent of the U.S. population. They are said to be the most racially and ethnically diverse.

The report states that the youth is redefining identity exploring fluid digital self and gender fluidity offline. Traditional markers of success are also redefined. Marriage, kids, and house ownership are all in decline. It is hard to tell whether it is by choice or due to changes in the property market.

Not only living conditions are different to those in the past. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” book attempt to analyse how different factors have created an outrage driven cancel culture in American education. According to the authors education became more experienced led than knowledge driven with rigorous debates as part of the process. The more pleasurable and safer experience the better. The last they call “safetyism” which could be loosely described as promoting “emotional safety” above all else.

In contrast the Dazed report says that the youth sees themselves as polymaths. They use hyphen-work titles, no longer being experts but knowing a little about a lot. The constant internet connection with multiply realities happening at once creates not only an impression of knowing a lot but also “fear of missing out” in short “FOMO”. “Everything is happening at once and everyone is a take on an artist” says one of its interviewees.

Despite defining themselves by their style 60% of the interviewed showed strong interest in protecting environment, race equality, women rights, and LGBT+ rights. 37% claims that luxury is less important than an experience. At this point one may reflect that their value system is commendable despite lack of experience in analogue world.

When asked “When would you stop buying products?” 85% responded when “the brand would do something unethical”; 59% if “the brand did not support equality, inclusivity and diversity” and only 36% would drop the brand if” the price went up”.

This snapshot might not tell us much about where our culture is heading but might indicate who is leading us in a new direction. The stark contrast in numbers ready to drop a brand if it was deemed unethical to those who would drop it because of its high price indicates that the surveyed group is rather well off or at least that the money is the least of their worries.

“Luxury beliefs”

Rob Henderson, proposed this term for a set of beliefs held by very affluent classes who rarely bear consequences of their beliefs and even if they do, they have enough resources to offset them. Henderson, PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge obtained a BS in Psychology from Yale University following his service in the US Air Force. He himself would not fit into that class due to his disadvantaged background and the path that led him out of it.

I was bewildered when I encountered a new social class at Yale four years ago: the luxury belief class. My confusion wasn’t surprising given my unusual background. When I was two years old, my mother was addicted to drugs and my father abandoned us. I grew up in multiple foster homes, was then adopted into a series of broken homes, and then experienced a series of family tragedies. Later, after a few years in the military, I went to Yale on the GI Bill – he himself explains at the beginning of his article on the subject in the Quillette magazine.

One might say “why ethical views could be damaging even if luxurious, aren’t they morally right in the end?” Here, we can take Cambridge University definition for the word moral; “relating to the standards of good or bad behaviour, fairness, honesty, etc. that each person believes in, rather than laws”

To begin with we can ask whether those who claim to be ethically motivated really believe in what they proclaim. Have they delved deeply into the issues they are certain about and ready to fight for? What is the motivation behind their beliefs?

Henderson proposes that:

In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods and re-attached it to beliefs.

In the original short essay for the New York Post he explains:

“People care a lot about social status. In fact, research indicates that respect and admiration from our peers are even more important than money for our sense of well-being.”

Many of the beliefs dismantle structures that were holding the society together. In theory they might sound interesting or even plausible, in practice in the long term they cause a lot of damage.

Among the most popular luxury beliefs are that all family structures are equal despite the evidence that families with two married parents are the most beneficial for young children. And that religion is irrational or harmful. Members of the upper class are most likely to be atheists or non-religious. But they have the resources and access to thrive without the unifying social edifice of religion. Not to mention that their find their meaning in their “careers” and “expensive passions beyond work” while members of the lower class have “jobs” and little time, or energy left for anything else.

One of the examples of a luxury belief in the “Monomass” report is the fact that the lack of property ownership is glorified as progress. Some of our readers might have had the pleasure of living in a global metropolis and hence, might know the difference between renting with mates in an affluent area and being stuck in council estate in a poverty stricken, ethnically diverse neighbourhood. One thing is for certain that the second one gives very good lessons in how to listen to your gut instinct instead of following lofty ideas.

From trendsetter to faithful follower

Where lies a line between experiencing “what is” and shaping the reality? We have been used to public relations companies building relationships between brands and the consumers. Has the nature of the relationship changed?

The power of the audience lies not in its size but its level of investment in the brand’s point of view.

Jefferson Hack, Creative Director and Co-Founder of the Dazed Media.

Young adults from iGen, a term used by Jean M. Twenge in her in depth analysis of the Generation Z, were brought up by smartphones and have very little experience of social interaction in real world. They have grown up in a safer environment but with little exposure to “rough and tumble” of real world. Usual structures around iGen are crumbling family, organized religion, local community. Being connected to technology creates an illusion of having it all but at the same time it weaves an intricate web of co-dependency. The technology craves attention, emotional investment and time spent being engaged. This relationship is not building them up but rather eating them inside out.

“An incredible 56 percent more teens experienced a major depressive episode in 2015 than 2010 and twice as many 12–14-year-olds killed themselves.

Teens are now turning to screens six to nine hours per day, trading away time that used to be spent getting together with friends informally, going to parties, sleeping, watching television, or visiting movie theatres. The largest shift of time comes from reading non-school books or magazines. iGens spend more time on screens than participating in off-screen activities. And experiments show that more screen time causes higher anxiety, loneliness and less emotional connection.” writes Jean M. Twenge.

Being engaged means reacting to what we see or rather watch online. We have a range or basic ones available to use to announce to the rest of the world: “like”, “laugh”, “angry”.

Seemingly those reactions are not insignificant. The “likes” and “smileys” make us crave for “social approval”, the more the “like” the better. At the time when young people’s brains are still developing, and they are seeking to find their place in the world “social media” and brands are “seeding” their products using value systems that suit their selling strategy.

As the computing technology develops and our reliance on them grows artificial intelligence opens new opportunities for learning about human nature and through that paves the way for ultimately hacking it. It gives possibility to create gods and new heroes that suit global brands’ vision for long term strategy for deep engagement.

The natural craving for meaning and higher self is easily being used by those who know how to process data. It is data we readily give away through our social media activity, surfing the net, wearing a smartwatch to analyse our body’s physiology, tuning in with home assistant listening to our conversations to be always present like God to answer our questions.

The virtual world lets us play in “gods’ realm”. The technological progress is good. Science is good. Thanks to science we can become better. We “click” to change the world. We buy from those who “share our values”. We stop being consumers. We shop “ethically”. We follow, we trust, we believe. Our good deeds make us feel better. If we feel good, we must be doing good. We get drunk on our virtue. Our creation is complete.

(Slides from the Dazed Media report were originally found in the PR folder at one of Polish major cultural institutions.)

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