Mid-year Pulse Check: How Accurate Was the 2023 Predictionary?

  • Text Sinead Chang
  • Design Emily Zhang

ICYMI, at the beginning of the year we published the 2023 Predictionary, a dictionary and prediction hybrid that laid out what we anticipated for the year ahead. As we approach the middle of the year (where did the time go?), it felt only right to hold ourselves accountable and reflect on the first half of 2023: which predictions were spot on, and which ones played out a little differently?

To do this, we assembled a team of D1Aers and very scientifically rated each word on a 0 to 10 scale, with 0 being a prediction that was way off and 10 being eerily accurate. Read on for our totally authoritative ratings and unfiltered thoughts about the state of culture…

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Deshé Gully
Associate Creative Strategist
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Alex Menell
Sr. Strategist, Creators + Casting
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Patty Lozada
Brand Coordinator
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Eli Williams
Director, Creative Strategy
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Clara Malley
Senior Creative Strategist

AI-nxiety: Unease about the overarching ramifications of AI on human creativity and ingenuity. The sense of foreboding as to whether or not what you’re seeing is being created by man or machine.

10! Literally my mom texted me the other day saying we all need to change our passwords and get new phones lmaooo; I feel like it's getting even smarter too especially with filters (P.S. Totally believe the britney spears is dead narrative).

- Patty Lozada, Brand Coordinator

A: My initial reaction is to say 10, but I am going to give it 8 — AI is everywhere right now, but I knocked off a couple points because I feel like people are still a bit apprehensive about it.

D: Rating AI an 8. I think those of us who work in digital are seeing this everywhere, but I have a lot of friends who still don't know what ChatGPT is.

A: I feel like most people know about it, but there are a bunch of people who are nervous about using it or apprehensive of its use case.

D: Yes. I think the anxiety is mostly around industries who see its potential to replace them right now but, similar to the metaverse, the average citizen is none the wiser.

P: Okayy but Spotify DJ lowkey slaps.

D: Yohance said something important recently. He said if you use Grammarly, you use AI. I was like... damn. It's been here and we didn't even know it.

Ex-factor: The “exclusivity factor”; the pendulum swing from accessible luxury to growing demand for hyper-exclusive experiences, products and communities.

I think the hyper-exclusive experience model is here to stay… Feels like brands picked up on the whole private community NFT thing and are adapting it to real-life events.

- Deshé Gully, Associate Creative Strategist

D: 7. I still think we nailed it because exclusive raves and concerts have been all the rage, but I am also seeing a lot of news around Gen Z loving luxury goods and purchasing from high end brands. When it comes to products, accessibility still feels relevant, but on experiences definitely think the private invite is having a moment.

A: I'd definitely agree with that! But I also feel like luxury is so relative.

P: Not me lichrully buying tix for exclusive raves and concerts...

A: How about unattainable luxury/exclusivity? Brand trips are such a point of fascination and kind of like a status symbol.

P: Totally agree on the experiences front; people def want to feel special so they're moving towards experiences, and I think this goes hand in hand with just wanting to show off. Like truly I would rate ex-factor a solid 8ish, especially as clout and wanting to show off continues to grow.

A: I definitely feel like 9!! Exclusivity is so relevant still and always a moving target. The second something becomes attainable, people move on to the next.

Fratigue: Franchise fatigue. Entertainment’s law of diminishing returns; when the constant and inevitable churn of franchise spinoffs fuels exhaustion instead of hype.

A: 10! (Maybe 9.5.) Personally, I am not bored of reboots/remakes/etc, but I know a ton of people that are.

P: HA, lowkey I’m bored of ongoing things (like “Fast & Furious”) but reboots I’m all here for.

A: Personally (and don't judge me for this lol), I am a big disney person, so while a lot of people don't like them, I enjoy a lot of the remakes because it feels like an updated version of something I am nostalgic about.

D: 9.5 lol. I’m a big Marvel fan. Have been for years and even I am like... alright... aren't we doing too much now. Like... give me time to miss you instead of just chugging out content constantly. On that note, also all these film adaptations, from “Detective Pikachu,” “Sonic,” “Mario,” and then everyone seeing the success of Marvel and trying to replicate it. I'm like... dang, whatever happened to quality film/TV.

P: Also 9

A: There will 100% be more reboots/sequels/prequels to come — they already have them coming up with “Harry Potter,” “Game of Thrones” spin offs, etc.

D: Fatigue or not I think this trend will continue. Especially now that video game franchises like Nintendo and Sony have gotten into the movie market with “Mario” and “Uncharted.” Also, all the “Star Wars” stuff. Feels like it's going to continue to be a war on capturing everyone's nichified attention spans.

Re-conomy: A compressed trend cycle, continued supply chain disruptions and pressure to meet sustainability goals places secondhand goods as the primary driver for brand growth.

I think I have to give it a 5, smack in the middle! it's definitely relevant, especially among Gen Z, while at the same time there is a remaining obsession with fast fashion. I found this quote on Forbes that I thought was really interesting: “Gen Z has shown the world that they care about the planet more than any other generation, yet they are inundated with shopping choices that make it easier than ever to mindlessly consume.

- Alex Menell, Sr. Strategist, Creators + Casting

D: 10. I'm seeing brands pop up outta the woodwork to announce all their sustainability efforts. I feel like sustainability is the new black. It’s something Gen Z really cares about and I think brands understand that if they don't have some sort of public facing effort they’ll be liable to get canceled real quick.

P: Totally agree! Even then though, I feel like it's all just greenwashing at the end of the day.

A: There's such an insane dichotomy between Gen Z being so sustainability focused, but also blazing through trends so fast that only fast fashion can keep up.

D: I like what y’all are saying. I've also seen this contradiction on wanting sustainability but then not being sustainable in reality. What Alex said 100%. I've been swayed. My rating is now a 6

P: I would also say 5. It just feels like there’s this divide with wanting to be sustainable but not doing it in practice.

D: I think the real reason people are buying from Shein and Temu is related to price. As much as people want to be for sustainability, they gotta pay the bills. And with inflation, the appeal to buy dupes and secondhand apparel at an affordable price is just too good to pass up.

Get Well Boom: The wave of brands expanding—or focusing—their wellness and health messaging to cater to a wider range of holistic health goals and definitions of “self care.”

Wellness is such a trend right now it's not even funny. Like every brand and their mom are trying to find a way into this space. I'm specifically thinking beverage, like the success of Liquid Death and all these canned drinks that promise reduced anxiety and elevated moods. Wellness-washing and greenwashing feel like the rainbow washing of yesterday.

- Deshé Gully, Associate Creative Strategist

P: Omg solid 10

A: 10!!

D: 10

P: Feel like so many brands are trying to emphasize how much better they are for you, and honestly being a lot more transparent about their ingredients, which I'm not mad about.

A: Agreed with Patty! I also feel like there is such a rise in brands that focus on self care in a way they didn't before.

P: I’ve seen a lot of skincare brands and food/bev brands doing this.

TikTokocene: The cultural era in which TikTok is a dominant influence over culture: a driving force for taste, celebrity, news, and consumption which may outlast the app’s existence.

I feel like as other platforms are adopting TikTok’s features and kind of combining social media into this sea of sameness, new apps (like Lemon8) have more opportunity to become popular quicker; I think we've gotten to the point where we're waiting for the next big thing.

- Patty Lozada, Brand Coordinator

A: 10 again! Influencer culture has been a thing for way longer than TikTok, but suddenly you have all of these tastemakers that you would never otherwise know that truly have such sway (i.e The VIP List).

P: Also 10

D: 10. YT Shorts, Pinterest, Reddit, Spotify. Everyone wants to be TikTok.

P: I lowkey use TikTok as a search engine at this point.

A: Same, Patty!! It's visual Google (obviously excluding Google Images lol).

D: TikTok is a non-American product so the possibility of a ban is always there, but the insights the entire world has learned about short-form video on mobile is here to stay. That is the true spark that's completely changed entertainment and media for the rest of time. If TikTok goes away someone will pop up with this format and the spirit of TikTok will live on.

A: 100% agreed Deshé! And to be totally honest, I don't think it can be replaced with an existing platform because there are already specific associations with Instagram, YouTube, etc. It would have to be a new app.

D: Honestly, if Netflix made some sort of TikTok app in TikTok's absence, the power they would have. I'm shivering even thinking about it.

Trendflation: The exponential rise in mass manufactured “trends” met with decreased cultural value and/or impact.

I kind of feel like Trendflation, Tiktokocene and Re-conomy go a little hand in hand — content (and trends) are flipping over SO fast, to the point that it's almost impossible to keep up. And then when you look at TikTok, where everyone has an individualized FYP, not everyone is exposed to the same trends, so are they even trends if they are reduced to a specific corner of the internet?

- Alex Menell, Sr. Strategist, Creators + Casting

P: Yep Yep Yep. I would honestly say 10 for this one as well, especially since we're always trend forecasting and trying to find ways in, it’s like if you’re not a part of the conversation or hop on a trend quick, there's always another brand, person, etc. that will and stand out.

A: I'm with Patty! 10 from me too.

D: 10. I think Trendflation is actually the result of personalized algorithms. People aren't watching the same channels anymore. There are all these hyper-specific niche communities and I think brands now have to divvy up their dollars to grab a bit of attention from so many different places. I think trends are just a different way of saying POV now. Like. if you’re a gamer and you have a POV on what’s going on in that community because you subscribe, you can label it a trend and then watch the money flow.

A: Oooh Deshé that's a rly good point.

P: Woah

So, to conclude, what do you think makes a trend, a trend?

D: In its truest sense, I think a trend is tied to numbers. Like “we've seen a large spike on Google trends about XYZ.” But in the modern age, a trend is rallying together 7 headlines and being like “don't you want in on this action?” A trend also feels connected to how many views a topic gets on TikTok. Like, if #DrinkTok had 5B views and all the top videos were about DIY mocktails, I'd call that a trend.

P: I also feel like there’s this notion around being a trendsetter and kind of following a formula to get something trending; for example I've seen this a lot on TikTok where people will be like “potential viral sound” and it's like them imitating certain mannerisms, ways of talking, etc. that have become popular before.

A: I feel like a trend has to be able to be able to cross niche communities. If it is limited to one subset of people, it doesn't quite feel like a trend, as opposed to being applicable to the majority. I think you can have different takes on a trend that might be differentiated across sub-communities, but at the heart it's applicable to the masses.

E: Alright Clara, now it’s our turn, I guess we have to think about this again. This year’s edition was the most challenging, but illuminating one to write I think. Dare I say we need to cut down the word count next year though lol.

C: Pre-grieving the writing process already. Do you wanna talk about all of them or just your top 3?

E: Let’s just do top 3, for the sake of the editor going through this. I’m going to have to go: AI-nxiety, Fratigue, and Trendflation. If there was a word for AI fatigue, that would make it in there as well. A hybrid of “Fratigue” and “AI-nxiety.”

C: “Sleep AI-pnea”?

E: That’s terrible. Saving it for next year, though.

C: I’m gonna go: Get Well Boom, TikTokocene and Ex-factor.

E: But anyway, I think AI-nxiety clearly captures the prevailing mood, and we’re definitely going to see it play out in the 2024 election for sure. I wonder if Fratigue will be even more prevalent due to the writers’ strike? Something I’m keeping my eyes on. AI will probably exacerbate Fratigue anyway, since a lot of it is reliant on inputs from sounds, images, words, whatever else that we’ve already made.

C: Always gotta bring in the politics. But also curious how it shakes out election wise. It feels like the worst and (unfortunately for democracy) most popular use cases for AI in a campaign context have yet to emerge which is terrifying. Writers’ strike is also an interesting call out.

E: And then finally, I know we were talking about whatever “Tomato Girl” is yesterday. I still think we need to clearly define what an actual “trend” is in the TikTok era. They all seem to exist in a vacuum. I’ll spare the rants on “Quiet Luxury” and “soft hiking.”

C: Re: Trendflation in general, I think a lot of TikTok trends are kinda ad hoc, which is the thing that really got me going on tomato girl lol. Like, retroactively creating a trend/aesthetic identity among disparate clips vs. identifying something that exists as a coherent whole outside the context of your TikTok video. Quiet luxury is an interesting one re: ex factor as well because, the whole premise of quiet luxury is inaccessibility you know? Like you can’t “get Shiv Roy’s look” at Zara or Shein. Have you seen those clips by the way of people being like “how to get the quiet luxury look at Zara”?

E: I haven’t. I assume it has something to do with starting a shell company and opening bank accounts in the Caymans?

C: More low budget than that unfortch. But lastly on Get Well Boom, there’s been so much this year already that I wish we could’ve added in: new data on the rise of plastic surgery among young people, “ozempic face,” buccal fat removal, the Lauren Oyler Goop cruise article. The wellness stuff is some of the weirdest and saddest to the extent that a lot of the popularity of beauty and wellness (according to experts, not just me lol) has to do with the massive failure of the healthcare system and a lack of affordability for young people. The 10 or 15 year trajectory on where this all lands from a mental and physical health standpoint just feels like it’s getting worse and worse.

E: And I’m always bringing it back to politics. Yeah, I do think there’s a very, almost insidious undertone to it all. Alex Pauly (friend of the pod) wrote a good piece in Highsnobiety recently hitting on some of this.

C: True, I did enjoy that one. But final thoughts?

E: Well there’s always the “sh*t, we should’ve included this,” but all things considered, I feel like we were pretty good about having our finger on the pulse, and not just necessarily taking things at face value either. Actually interrogating shifts and movements vs. just regurgitating them. Time to tee up the brainstorms for next year.

C: Dramaturgically, I think it made sense. I think for this next one I’m gonna go full method: live as a Tomato Girl, shoot myself up with Ozempic and shop Loro Piana. Don’t know how well Tomato Girl and Quiet Luxury will blend but can’t wait to test it out.