The trend of pursuing economic activities for one’s “own satisfaction” is particularly strong for Generation MZ. This has led to the emergence of a new buzzword: “meconomy.” Let’s take a look at some of the buzzwords and key examples of the meconomy trend—characterized by a rising number of single-person households and the tendency of individuals to pursue their own beliefs and preferences—and the resulting new consumption trends.
MZers open their wallet for “Nasimbi”
Amidst the prolonged economic recession and high inflation, many people seem to have put a freeze on their spending. In reality, most people’s feelings that “everyday life is difficult” is similar to in the past, but the difference is that nowadays, people are willing to spend money when they personally think it is worthwhile or necessary. This shift in consumption is particularly evident among Generation MZ, giving rise to the term “meconomy,” a combination of the words “me” and “economy.” This term was first coined in Jeremy Rifkin’s book, The Age of Access, published in the United States.
How did the “meconomy,” an economic phenomenon centered around the individual, emerge? It is generally believed that the emergence of this trend is due to an increase in single-person households and the spread of contactless lifestyles following the outbreak of the pandemic, leading to a greater focus on the value of “me” rather than “us.” The growth of “prosumers”—such as influencers or one-person markets operated through social media—who play the roles of both consumers and producers are also said to be one of the causes of this trend. Unlike older generations—who placed more emphasis on the quality and price of products, brand power, and the opinions of others—Gen MZers tend to place a higher value on personal satisfaction, growth, and work-life balance. The meconomy, in which individuals seek to reflect their own personal values, tastes, and thoughts through their consumption, is expected to continue to exert a strong influence on future consumption patterns.
The meconomy phenomenon as seen through buzzwords
New terms and expressions are needed to express and explain changes in different societies and cultures. Examining the buzzwords surrounding the meconomy phenomenon allows us to understand the concept more accurately.
- Nana Land: A subjective world in which people follow their own standards without being bound by society standards or the opinions of others
- Nasimbi: A combination of the Korean words for “me,” “psyche,” and “cost effectiveness”; used to refer to consumer psychology that values personal satisfaction over price and performance
- Digging Sobi: A term derived from the English word “dig” and the Korean word “sobi” (meaning “consumption”); refers to the act of digging into a specific area or product preferred by the consumer
- Men’s Care: Refers to men heavily investing in their appearance, such as in the form of dieting, fashion, and personal grooming
- Meaning Out: A combination of the word “meaning” and the phrase “coming out”; used to refer to the act of openly declaring one’s personal tastes and political and social beliefs through consumption patterns
- Self-Gifting: Refers to the act of giving oneself a gift as a form of comfort or encouragement
- Ilconomy: A combination of the Korean word for “1” and the English word “economy”; refers to the economic activities of single-person households who enjoy eating or drinking alone
- Self-Centered Consumption: A term selected by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in cooperation with the National Institute of Korean Language as a replacement for the term “meconomy”
- For Me: Represents the ideas of “for health,” “single or one,” “recreation,” “more convenient,” or “expensive”; also used to refer to people who unhesitatingly invest in products they value
- Hyolo: A combination of “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) and “holo” (meaning “alone” in Korean); used to refer to people who find satisfaction in doing activities alone
Examples of the meconomy phenomenon
“Digging Sobi” which involves delving deeply into your favorite interests, hobbies, or fandoms, is the most common buzzword associated with the meconomy phenomenon. This can involve lining up for limited edition items or participating in crowdfunding to help create hot items. Subscription services for regular deliveries of fresh flowers or special cooking ingredients are also examples of this trend.
“Premium meconomy,” which is different from “flex consumption,” is also commonly seen among Gen MZers. Premium meconomy may involve buying exotic fruits such as apple watermelons, flat peaches, or Shine Muscat grapes because of their nutritional value, visual appeal, or variety. It can also involve enjoying golf as part of your regular routine, as opposed to viewing it a luxury sport or some form of privilege. Gen MZers also tend to show a different attitude towards luxury goods than previous generations. While they still appreciate traditional luxury brands like Chanel and Christian Dior, MZers are also willing to spend money on products made by less known designers, provided that the products suit their individual tastes. This generation of consumers spend money on hotel staycations and are also familiar with customized products and omakase-style dining experiences. The premium market targeting Gen MZers, who value experiences and fun, shows signs of further growth.
The act of supporting ethical businesses and boycotting unethical ones is another form of value-based consumption that is seen as exerting a positive influence on the world and contributing to positive societal changes. The news is filled with stories of fried chicken restaurants giving away free chicken to the needy and fruit store owners providing children with safe routes to school. Conversely, other businesses like Coupang are facing public outrage and consumer boycotts after news reports of a logistics center fire that revealed poor working conditions and the sale of controversial products such as the Rising Sun Flag.
Even in the midst of the current economic downtown, the meconomy trend remains strong. With self-gifting trends emphasizing physical and mental relaxation and well-prepared foods, even if only for a single meal, the meconomy phenomenon ultimately reflects each individual’s efforts to find happiness by making the best choices possible. In a society where individual tastes and values are often neglected in the name of “us,” or “the greater good,” the emergence of self-centered consumption that values personal satisfaction is a welcome change.
By the Editorial Department