The youth creators at the heart of today’s social media communities are redefining what influence means, helping to embrace more nuanced perspectives to create positive conversation and outcomes. Diverging perspectives have always lived and thrived on social media, and right now its natural home is Tiktok. The lo-fi, real-time, conversational aesthetic to creator content lends itself to quick, ‘spicy’ and algorithm-fuelling takes.

From our own experience, we’ve seen how TikTok as a platform is shifting how young people communicate all over the globe. Our recent YCU research revealed that now over a quarter (28%) of Irish 16-24 year olds are relying on the platform for first hand, peer-to-peer recommendations. It’s how Yeaneah, 23, planned her activities on a big trip away - “When I was traveling to Portugal, I did go on TikTok to look up, like restaurants and stuff and nice places to go in Faro. I ended up finding this buffet place, it was amazing.”

Not all recommendations are worthy of the hype however. The ‘Tiktok made me buy it” phenomenon can be a great way to find your next iconic buy, but can also help perpetuate over-hyped product cycles that don’t deliver. Hype-busting is alive and well, and fighting back. Both fans and creators are using the same algorithms to call out influencers who prioritise financial gain, inauthentic brand partnerships and disingenuous recommendations over honest reviews in real-time.

In fact, more creators are increasingly ‘de-influencing’, a new term for sharing what viral products are not actually worth buying (and a trend with over 68 million views on TikTok). This has become a powerful way to change the narrative and challenge in-authenticity - influencing the 2023 way. It’s easy to see why - in addition to providing a different perspective, we know that younger people are approaching shopping with increased scrutiny. With the cost of living crisis and climate crisis, young people are making more considered purchases and deeply appreciate honesty and real perspectives from their favourite creators.


Young people have a desire to try new experiences, with travel and adventure a key source of joy for 50% of young people from our YCU research. Eoin, 27, said “I’m going on a road-trip this year, camping and driving. I’m going to go up from Wales to Scotland and back down again with my dog Vinnie. Do more things for me and focus more on what makes me happy.” Another way it is manifesting is embracing change and the freedom you can get from doing something that challenges you - 57% have broken out of their comfort zone to deliberately try something that frightens you a bit. This can be moving to a new place and exploring a different way of life - 56 % of Gen Z and 52% of Millennials are interested in living in multiple cities.

While many young people are hungry to get out there and go on adventures, we also see others who are feeling the need to withdraw. A recent study in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review presented the increased prevalence in extreme social withdrawal among young people around the world, reflecting a common social phenomenon in Japan called Hikkomori. Emerging from the pandemic some young people are struggling to adapt as they may have an increased self-critical awareness, as a result of lockdown isolation and lack of social feedback. This can turn into social isolation for some (not all), and in some cases, increased social isolation and loneliness can be a huge anxiety trigger.

A positive trend is that, whether you’re embracing to the freedom to do something or not, at the core young people are choosing their path based on what will make them happier. They're showing up as their authentic selves in a balanced way in the midst of life’s uncertain fast pace. It’s not a case of right or wrong, either or, A or B. They have the freedom to choose what best suits their needs - be it travel or safe withdrawal, or maybe a bit of both. Speaking to the Guardian, Zubaydah Abdi, 20, said that “life is often just too fast-paced for me nowadays. Covid gave me the time to focus and think deeply for the first time, and now I’m beginning to think that I need to slow my life down again so I can really think deeply about the new choices I’m making and where life’s momentum is taking me.”

"The important thing is to get support in doing what they find brings them happiness or purpose, understanding that it is a way of moving forward. “Social isolation doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone is doing it all of the time, social events are really starting to resurge at the university level at least and it’s great to see, but it’s undeniable that the class of students effected most heavily by the lockdown still feel somewhat uncomfortable reaching out in this environment. While I do wish it didn’t have to be that way, it does increase those peoples’ independence and self-assurance” - Sam Hoyer via Instagram


Getting more comfortable with ‘yes, but also’ way of thinking

Freedom is the driver. There’s no right or wrong way to get there, neither being right or wrong. Sometimes it’s about choosing both at times, depending on where they are in their current life stage. For brands and businesses the most important takeout is to get more comfortable with this dynamic and listen keenly to where you can support your youth audience. In this era of permacrisis, it’s important to bring humanity as you look to embrace the contradictions of youth behaviour in a world of uncertainty.

Keep Being Authentic & Honest

In the creator economy, we’ve moved beyond an era of the picture-perfect life into a more playful, experience-led of authenticity - creators are showing their true selves. This is what young people want to see! They want to see their favourite influencers having fun and sharing credible collaborations.

“We have learned from creative collaborations as part of The Love Network, that for brands it’s really important to lean into this authentic creator content. Brands can take guidance from content creators and partners to unlock how best their brand shows up authentically in their content. Brands that lean into this authentic way to play are the brands that will win. By letting creators have creative license with a product or service, they’re helping brands show up for youth in the best way possible.” Laura Wall, Group Account Director PR & Advocacy, THINKHOUSE

For West Coast Cooler’s brand relaunch, The Love Network helped the brand share their story to both their existing audience and introduce the brand to new people through an authentic and playful creator campaign.

West Coast Cooler has been a consistent consumer favourite since its inception in 1984. It’s a brand that is much loved and it deserved some new love. THINKHOUSE created an exciting, culturally-relevant campaign with Only Cans and Emma Doran was the perfect partner to help launch it. We can’t wait to see how our original consumers and a new generation will enjoy the revamped brand look and feel.Laura Kerr, Assistant Brand Manager, West Coast Cooler

Stay tuned for more on The Love Network and creators coming soon…

Youth Culture Uncovered 2023 unlocks opportunities in connecting with 16-35 year olds. For more information or to request a presentation, email or reach out to your Client Service contact for more information.