Words by Tytti Kurula | Main image: Calvin Klein (Screenshot from YouTube)

It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish virtual and digital experiences from real life experiences.

A growing portion of our lives is being lived in digital space, especially on social media. Instagram has over 1 billion monthly users and over 500 million of them use it daily. According to The UK Office of Communications, people in the UK check their phones on average every 12 minutes. Although we are always on the lookout for authenticity and relatability on social media, we still live in a filter-obsessed world where photos are curated and edited to improve their potential.

This visually driven culture has led us to a state where products, spaces and experiences are created to have an immediate photographic charm to be captured and shared on social platforms. Architects are being asked by clients to deliver strong Instagram appeal in their projects. People are looking for authentic experiences, but also content for their social media accounts. One example of this movement is Gaga Changning Villa restaurant in Shanghai, where the decor has been optimized for Instagram by making sure design elements fit well in a photo.



A decor designed to look good on one’s feed is an attractive selling point. A peculiar black and white cafe called YND 223-14 in Seoul knows the trick. The cartoon-like space was created to make customers feel like they have just stepped into a drawing.


BLURRING THE LINES

In the future, we will believe what we see less. Advancements in animation make it possible to create almost any kind of imagery. As evidenced with deepfake videos, it is becoming increasingly hard to tell the difference between real and fake.

Perfect visualizations of stretching the truth are avatar-influencers like Lil Miquela, a fictional personality who currently has 1,6 million followers on Instagram. She has posed with numerous celebrities, released music and even created her own fashion line. A study made by Fullscreen found out that 42% of Gen Z & Millennials have followed an influencer and didn’t know it was CGI.

42% of Gen Z & Millennials have followed an influencer and didn’t know it was CGI.

Fullscreen study “Can CGI Infuencers Have Real Infuence?”

In recent years, the line between real and fake has already been blurring due to the use of editing apps like Facetune. We see so much manipulated imagery on a daily basis that completely fictional influencers seem like a natural next step. Consequently, this creates commercial potential for virtual personalities and new opportunities for how brands can interact with consumers.

Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela in Calvin Klein Ad

The overlap between digital and artificial creates a new world where it is less meaningful if images are real or not. There are now so many versions of reality, that to distinguish the typical, real-world experiences from the virtual ones, real life has been labeled “RR” for real reality.


OFFLINE MODE

Some companies offer alternatives to life in the virtual world, in some cases even discouraging the hunt for the perfect Instagrammable moment. For example, mineral water brand Bru has created dinner plates with a QR-code pattern that sends a friendly reminder to enjoy each others’ company.

Bru Social Plates Ad

The search of balance between online and offline worlds is a topic that trend forecasting agencies have been discussing for a long time, but it continues – and is more relevant than ever.

As our interpersonal experiences spill from digital space back into human space, we are coming a full circle in the information age. After all, no matter how advanced we become as a society and how connected the world becomes through technology, there is always an urge for natural and real experiences. Maybe these two complementary worlds can serve as an escape of each other, and we can find a beautiful coexistence between the two.

Photo of a man standing on a mountain near lake
Photo by Nursultan Rakysh on Unsplash