Trend Alert: Digisexuality

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest brands, products and services that are trending with 16-24s.

In November, a 35-year-old Japanese man married a hologram of digital pop star Hatsune Miku, causing shock and amusement around the world. While this might seem like no more than a quirky news story, it’s actually part of a larger, worrying trend in his home country of Japan, where the birth rate is dramatically decreasing as young people show less interest in forming romantic relationships.

The marriage is an example of digisexuality, where someone has sexual or romantic feelings towards technology. The emergence of emotive tech, from voice assistants like Alexa and Siri to virtual influencers like Lil Miquela, has made this phenomenon more common. When a person has difficulty connecting with other humans, it’s understandable that they may become attached to a character that imitates human qualities, yet is reliably friendly, helpful and controllable.

In our 2018 Youth Trends Report, which you can view here, we wrote about the emotive tech trend. 32% of the 16-24s we surveyed loved idea of technology becoming emotionally connected to human beings, while 86% said it helps them to communicate better. 18% would trust technology to be their friend, and 20% to set them up on a date.

In Japan, the trend toward replacing human connection with technology is worrying, in the context of an emerging birth rate crisis. The country’s population has been falling since 2016, which has been attributed to several issues that make Japanese Millennials different to previous generations, including economic insecurity and gender equality. Japanese women, who were traditionally focused on family, are now prioritising their careers and lifestyles, while men are struggling to find work and feel like failures as expectations to be the breadwinner persist. This is why the hologram marriage story attracted concern when reported in Japan, as locals worry that if such relationships become more common, it could exacerbate the existing birth rate decline.

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