Analog Adventures vs. Digital Detours: How Different Generations Escape the Daily Grind

Published in
4 min readAug 3, 2023

Sphere’s Culture Lens is a visual database of over 10 million consumer images, organized by an AI search engine. It identifies images by object and context, giving you a glimpse into the consumer mindset on any topic of interest.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the boundaries between school, work, and personal time have blurred. Laden with constant connectivity, we are always switched on and obligated to engage.

This creates a desire for moments of respite in everyday life which manifests in distinct ways for different generations. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones or retreating into virtual dreamworlds, the pursuit of escape is a universal coping mechanism to counterbalance the demands of reality.

Unlocking the communal knowledge of social media

To explore how individuals across different age groups express their need for escape, we tap into the crowd-sourcing power of Sphere’s Culture Lens app.

Culture Lens is a unique visual database of over 10 million consumer images, organized by an AI-powered search engine. It identifies images by object and context, without relying on hashtags or captions. By analyzing the different themes present in consumer images, we get a glimpse into the collective mindset of the population.

Search for any topic of interest and the Culture Lens app retrieves the images that represent it best, together with insightful analytics like detected emotions and subcultures. Use it to find out what joy looks like across different communities, or discover how consumers depict and relate to specific products on social media.

Culture Lens can be an invaluable insight into what one concept means to different tribes. In this example, we examine how escapism is experienced across various generations, starting by searching Culture Lens with the following natural language inputs:

Escape from daily life for boomers

Escape from daily life for millennials

Escape from daily life for generation Z

The results revealed unique paths to respite for each generation, reflecting their different values and aspirations.

Escape for baby boomers: Comfort in family and friends

When it comes to seeking escape, boomers find refuge in the warm embrace of family and friends, cherishing the bonds that provide comfort and solace.

The search results depict meal times and getaways with loved ones, showing that boomers find rest and rejuvenation in the warmth of social companionship and physical affection.

Escape for millennials: Breaking free from the corporate grind

On the other hand, millennials see escape as freedom from the monotonous 9-to-5 rat race. Whether it’s switching to remote work or embarking on solo backpacking adventures, they seek out experiences to liberate them from the constraints of daily routine.

The most popular posts found (with a high number of likes and comments) tend to be memes or quotes about escaping corporate drudgery. Similarly, commonly used emojis in the image captions are symbols of technological connectivity like laptops and phones which millennials long to be free from.

Escape for gen Z: Building digital sanctuaries

As for gen Z, their escape takes on a digital dimension, as they build and retreat into digital sanctuaries, finding comfort and connection in the virtual realm. They are also children of the pandemic, frequently pictured with masks on even when out having fun.

The search results show a strong ‘otaku’ culture, suggesting the enthusiasm that Gen Z has for gaming culture and technology-related fandoms. They immerse themselves in gaming communities and make video games a significant part of their lifestyle and identity. Similarly, commonly used hashtags are largely related to ‘gaming’ and ‘pc’ (personal computer).

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