If 2022 was about imagining what utopian and dystopian futures might look like, 2023 will be marked by a desire to experience those potential futures in the here and now. Years of isolation and grief shaped by COVID-19 have increased our longing to redefine our relationship with the digital world, and many are craving memorable experiences to make up for lost time. Narratives prioritizing authenticity and experience will be a central theme in the coming year, moving alongside narratives about identity, belonging and worthiness. This will influence conversations about consumerism, the role of parasocial relationships in our lives, and how we define authenticity for ourselves and our communities.
Stories about the Native-led land back movement, reparations for Black people, and a desire to expatriate will continue to move across conversations this year. In conversations about wellness and lifestyle, we will consistently see stories that decry productivity and burnout in favor of quiet quitting, prioritizing rest, and seeing what the soft life has to offer. These conversations are all connected to peoples’ desire to experience a fulfilling life. Self-reflections like "What will benefit me?" and "What can I experience in the here and now?" embody narratives rooted in individual choice, personal freedom, and expectation of what we deserve. These impulses can and will lead to the commodification of authenticity and experiences. That said, values of collective care, abundance, and shared victory will buttress these conversations and open up opportunities for progressive movements to organize people beyond the choir.
NARRATIVES AT PLAY
- It’s time to go back to normal
- The good life is for those who work for it
- Everyone is worthy of the good life
- More individual choice means more personal freedom
- Community shapes and defines authenticity
- Authenticity is shaped and defined by individuals
- There is no future, only the present
- The future is what we make it
People want a better life. Many stories and conversations in 2022 reminded us that the way society is structured right now is not working for most of us. People are exhausted and want to live better and more satisfying lives. This longing creates an opening for progressive organizers to advance the narrative that a good life is possible and that, collectively, we have the power to change our material conditions and ensure that all peoples’ needs are met. We can use stories about the desire for work-life balance, the escape from grind culture, and the things that bring us joy to connect a broader audience to our organizing and power-building efforts. These narratives can be leveraged in stories and conversations about the workplace, pop culture, and politics.
Create authentic and unique experiences within organizing efforts. As the return to in-person gatherings and events continues, there is a longing for unique experiences that can’t be replicated virtually. Treat public-facing events for your power-building and organizing projects as an opportunity to create compelling cultural experiences. Use tools like hashtags, geo-tagged filters, culturally relevant decor, and music to create an experience that people will want to share with their networks, both on and offline. Be COVID-conscious in the planning and execution of your events in order to create joyful and safe experiences that make room for as many people as possible – and don’t forget the swag
Watch out for narratives rooted in individualism. As people seek authentic and unique experiences, they risk focusing solely on themselves and their close networks. Narratives that elevate self-care as self-preservation alone could lead people to undercut the idea of collective liberation. Make explicit connections between the need for self-preservation and care and messages of unity, solidarity, and collective organizing.
Beware of political fatigue. The past three years have been full of ongoing crises. Many people may see politics and organizing as a threat to their mental and spiritual well-being, leading them to put organizing on the back burner or dismissing it outright, embrace apolitical as an identity, assume that politics don’t impact them, or willfully ignore political content and engagement. Make sure to create space for collective and individual healing and care alongside the rest of the work while looking for pathways to connect the personal to the political.