What’s Old Is New: Gen Z Embraces Y2K Trends (And Tech)

By: SoFi General · January 13, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sick of Social Media

Throughout 2022, emerging trends showed people pushing back against aspects of modern life.

Meta Platforms’ (META) Facebook is a notable example. In 2021, the social media network lost total users for the first time in its history. While that can be partially explained by the growth of TikTok and other platforms, recent data suggests younger people may be less infatuated with social media overall.

According to Pew Research, 36% of teens say they use social media too much. That’s translated into some surprising tech choices among Gen Z users. As opposed to smart phones and their souped-up cameras, some are now opting for old-school flip phones and digital cameras. For many younger consumers, older technology represents a chance to unplug.

Artificial Authenticity

In reality, social media remains key to explaining Gen Z’s preference for outdated tech. WGSN Insight, a trend forecasting company, explains photos taken with a digital camera and posted online appear unique. The blurry photos evoke an “authentic” aesthetic the latest iPhone (AAPL) camera just can’t provide.

For social media platforms like Instagram, the challenge appears to be keeping things fresh and innovative to compete with rising companies. But on TikTok, which dominates the social media conversation among Gen Z, the prevalent early-aughts-era feel suggests embracing the past may be as important to capturing young users as the future.

Démodé or in Vogue?

Ecommerce data backs up the digital camera phenomenon. From 2021 to 2022, searches containing the term “digital camera” increased 10% on eBay (EBAY). Digging deeper, certain models of camera proved especially popular with searches for Nikon’s (NINOY) COOLPIX camera growing 90% over the same time frame.

Ironically, the photos being snapped on the older cameras likely capture subjects who wouldn’t look out of place in the Y2K era, either. That’s because brands like True Religion, Juicy Couture, and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) are also making a comeback.

Now may be the time to check the back of your closet or your home’s junk drawer because digging out a flip phone, pair of low-rise jeans, or velour tracksuit might just put you on the cutting edge of our cyclical culture.

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