The Youth Lab


In a historic move, US President Donald Trump has been permanently suspended from using Twitter. Facebook has also implemented an indefinite ban. These events have raised questions about tech regulation and our collective relationship with the tech giants, and reminded us of how powerful bad actors in digital spaces can be. Meanwhile, at its peak, the Covid-19 pandemic, saw over 3.9 billion people confined to their homes, sparking social horizons expanding and the function of the digital realm pulled into even greater prominence.

This week’s 52INSIGHTS explores what’s trending at CES 2021 and some of the digital trends to watch in 2021.


42% of UK Gen Zers have used social media more often to relax since the COVID-19 outbreak.*

“We think COVID-19 is teaching people the importance of social interaction and about the world which exists beyond our phones.” @iconicakes

Just as the reset button was hit on the world of work with Covid-19, the world of social media has also been on its own cultural reminagination journey the past year. Some online youth behaviour trends that emerged in 2020 and that we see continuing to grow into 2021 include:

  • Importance of community spaces: whether they are in the public digital sphere or in the social media underground (eg. WhatsApp), staying connected and beings supported by and with others will continue to be a focus for social media users.
  • Digital platforms as live event spaces: prepare for more excitement and innovation in the live digital/virtual experience space as traditional entertainment and social media communications lines blur. Some examples include - Travis Scott’s Fortnite gig, The Weeknd’s virtual concert on TikTok and K-Pop superstars BTS a music video debut on Fortnite’s party royale island (party royale mode is exclusively for socialising).
  • Conscious creativity: youth are personalising their online content feeds toward those that serve a more human, beneficial lifestyle or societal purpose (to their world beyond the digital realm), and creating content that matters more - for example, getting educational tips or ‘how-tos’ from a TikTok feed like Garden Marcus’.
  • Zoom fatigue: ‘Zoom fatigue’ or simply screen fatigue is rampant due to the increase in the use of digital across both work and personal endeavours. Offset strategies can include a focus on high-end production, shorter (‘time-light’) pieces of storytelling/value-add content or new kinds of digital experiences.

Read more on the topic of social media & Covid-19 trends in this report we liked by WeAreSocial.

* “Meet the Future” by YouGov (Facebook-commissioned online survey of 9,038 people ages 18–25 in DE, DK, FR, GB, SE, NO who use Facebook or Instagram), Aug 2020


The annual CES consumer tech show is being held virtually this year for the first time. Trends predicted to be big this year included health & wellness, 5G, EVs, mobility and laptop tech...

What conversations pulled us in?

  • Mobile tech: When it comes to mobile and smartphone tech, two big conversations are 5G and foldable phones. CES saw two companies release a new idea - rollable phones.
  • Tech for the Covid era: smart face-masks and more! LG launched a battery powered, air purifying mask. Elsewhere a Halo sensor embedded in the AirPop Active+ Smart Mask monitors “the air quality in your current location, which pollutants it has filtered out, and when to change the filter.” There’s also inventive new air purifiers and even touchless doorbells. There’s also laptops and chairs for the ‘new normal’ of remote work.
  • Robots: of course new consumer Bots were unveiled - Samsung announced three, with abilities to pour glasses of wine and clean your house.

Some other gadgets and announcements that caught our attention include:


With questions increasingly being raised about our relationship with tech giants and the digital world, action and conversation around protecting children and young people in the online world is becoming increasingly important. On one side of the story, the conversation around the responsibility of big tech companies to take greater responsibility is rising.

What this episode [Trump’s ban] does highlight is the speed of development of tech companies, their influence on public discourse, and the comparatively slow pace of regulation in keeping up. Let us hope this moment is a watershed in considering the position of these online public squares. Are they platforms or publishers? If the latter, they must take editorial responsibility for the material they publish. If the former, we must consider whether the intense consolidation of market power in an increasingly small number of private companies is sustainable for a democratic future, or if it leaves society vulnerable to further adverse consequences.” Philip Crowe, The Irish Times

Elsewhere, individuals and disruptors are starting to take matters like privacy into their own hands. Some privacy apps recommended include Signal or Telegram as an alternative messaging app (despite EU WhatsApp users not having to share personal info with Facebook), DuckDuckGo for private web searching and ProtonMail for free encrypted email. Also, beware - hackers have been busy (the danger of the recent SolarWinds malware campaign was addressed by Microsoft’s president in his Keynote speech at CES). We’ve heard of a number of digital account hacks recently, which is a timely reminder, especially in current working set-ups, to update passwords and increase security.


As always, the world of tech and social media is rapidly adapting. Younger generations are using social media in ‘pandemic’-functional ways (exemplifying an increased reliance on alternative ways of communicating and gathering), while tech companies continue to innovate (hopefully, with increased responsible human agendas and outcomes). A key takeaway from this for brands is, in an increasingly technologically-driven world, it’s important not to lose sight of the human experience and story. The digital world is not somewhere that people just go to escape - it’s somewhere people actually hang out together - so you need to be sensitive to this experience. Formats are open to be played with, but digital campaigns or initiatives need to be grounded in real human (individual or community) insight to ensure they are adding value to people’s experiences.

See also


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