Crowdsourced Companions

featured-post
type - trends
Trends
sector - media & technology
sector - youth
Digital apps are reviving physical meetings, helping despondent members of Generation Z to expand their social groups in safe and meaningful ways

Drivers: what’s happening

We mostly associate young people’s friendships with the digital realm and its thriving universe of subcultures and fandom. Private Facebook groups such as Truly Twenties have been connecting people – mostly women – in new cities for years, while the growing market for rent-a-friend services shows how willing people are to buy their way out of solitary lifestyles.

But as we showed in our Gen Z Hangout Market, such connections are not satisfying young people’s need for social health – a form of wellbeing that the pandemic has thrust into mainstream consciousness. A recent Harvard study in the US shows that the social health of young people was hit hard by Covid-19, with 61% of those aged 18–25 reporting high levels of loneliness.

Instead, digital platforms are now being used to facilitate the making of real-life friends. British Gen Z have an average of six friends they’ve never met face to face, while four out of five friends in India rely on digital communication to stay connected (sources: Konnect, Snap). And these connections are purposefully unbound to the social media platforms they start on – they are simply using technology to cultivate meetings in the physical realm.

Published by:

13 January 2022

Author: Holly Friend and Emily Rhodes

Image: Flox, US

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No More Lonely Friends, US

Case studies: what’s new

No More Lonely Friends

In summer 2021, 23-year-old Marissa Meizz went viral after a TikToker heard her friends had agreed to exclude her from a party. In response, the social media app was awash with invitations for Meizz to join various friendship groups. After hosting a 200-person gathering in Central Park, Meizz launched an online community, No More Lonely Friends, organising free meetings across the US and selling merchandise with optimistic and friendship-focused messaging.

Flox

Launched by a first-generation college student who struggled to find peers during remote learning, Flox is an app designed specifically for groups as opposed to individuals. Once friendship groups sign up – the app is exclusively for New York undergraduates for the time being – they can connect and meet other groups. The group dynamic is central to Flox as it offers an element of safety, something that mitigates the risks associated with meeting people one to one.

Locals

Taking a more purposeful approach is Locals, which not only connects people who are digitally fatigued but are keen to get involved in social and planet-driven causes. Launched in London and Los Angeles, activities include nature hiking, film screenings and a meditation session with a Tibetan monk. In addition, Locals roots itself in positive impact by organising volunteering trips, as well as letting users raise funds for a charity of the host’s choice, instead of paying a fee for the experience.

‘Our goal with Flox is also to make friend-finding more comfortable, safe and fun, removing that social stigma’
Jamie Lee, founder, Flox
 
 

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