Younger generations are expressing a need for deeper engagement and more authentic social interaction, but can they find it online?
Is gen Z suffering from a loneliness epidemic? Business Insider reported a story exploring why gen Z is sometimes considered loneliest generation, and Vice unpacked what it termed a “loneliness epidemic” in young people.
And while they’re spending more time online—which many point to as a cause of loneliness—they’re using that time to cultivate self-expression and forge connections. Razorfish and Vice Media Group released a study in April that examined what impact the metaverse has on social interactions, user identities, and commerce. Findings from “The Metaverse: A View from the Inside” indicate that gen Z not only spends more time online than other generations, but that they also form more meaningful connections to their own online identities. 45% of those questioned for the study reported that their in-game identity is a truer expression of themselves than their physical, in-person identity, and 57% stated that they feel freer to express themselves online than they would in real life.
85% of gen Zers believe technology brings people together, and 70% say technology has deepened their relationships with friends and family, according to 2021 findings by Wunderman Thompson Data for Wunderman Thompson Intelligence.
In response, digital platforms are focusing on fostering authentic connections and making new friends in non-traditional formats. Younger users are looking for more authentic connections on apps like BeReal, where they can connect with other users based on real, unedited daily updates. IMVU, self-proclaimed the largest avatar-based social network in the world, was created as a dedicated “3D avatar-based friendship discovery and social platform.”
Justin Hochberg, CEO of Virtual Brand Group, tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence that the “value of the metaverse is to experience something and make friends. The metaverse empowers people to be able to build their own part of this world.”
Some brands are creating spaces dedicated to younger users, like the kid-friendly Nikeland Airtopia that launched in March of this year, or the upcoming metaverse for kids by Lego and Epic Games announced in April. One app is meeting lonely gen Z users where they are to dispel taboo wellness tropes online. Launched in April, Woo is redefining wellness for anxious gen Zers, making it both relatable and relevant to young adults. In a previous interview, Hochberg emphasizes that brands should focus on “Community over colonization – that’s how you leverage the ecosystem.”
With one of the most digitally engaged groups of users in the metaverse yearning for deeper social connection, brands need to up-level how they interact with consumers on their platforms, and how they foster engagement between communities online.