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Self-expression and community move online

The New Consumer, in collaboration with Coefficient Capital, just published its latest Consumer Trends report, which you can download for free over here (registration required). There’s a lot in the report to flip through, but I thought I would share these two slides:

Generation Z and Millennials now make up ~40% of the US population and they are soon entering their prime consumer spending years. What’s noteworthy about these charts, but perhaps not surprising, is the extent in which self-expression and a sense of community have shifted from offline to online.

Very few Boomers, at least according to this report, feel like themselves online. But nearly half of Gen Z feel most like themselves online. What it means to be part of a “community” has also shifted dramatically, with more if it happening online or at least partially online.

All of this ties into what happened earlier in the week with Nike announcing the acquisition of RTFKT Studios. As I mentioned in this post, the so-called metaverse doesn’t necessarily have to mean VR goggles and living in video games. It can simply mean placing value on the parts of our lives that are now digital. The above two charts suggest that many are already doing this.

Of course, what all of this means for our physical lives is an important question. Josh Stephens recently argued, over at Planetizen, that the metaverse is going to be really bad for cities. The more we focus on seductive virtual worlds, the less we will focus on our physical spaces. I get this logic.

But again, I think it depends on how you define the metaverse. And I think VR headsets are a pretty narrow definition. I am both a lover of technology and a lover of cities. And throughout this pandemic I have been fairly consistent in writing about the resiliency of cities. Nothing in this post changes that for me.

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