Every aspect of society is evolving at a rapid pace as younger generations come to the fore, transforming societal norms, cultural trends, and consumer dynamics in their wake. As Gen Zers, the first true digital natives integrate into the workforce, their influence has started extending past mere workplace dynamics. For them, social life has taken on greater importance, which is why observing how young people socialize helps the public decode prevailing lifestyles and megatrends.
Given this, Soul’s founder Zhang Lu collaborated with Omnicom Media Group China (OMG China) to study their social approaches, motivations, and connection cultivation trends. And since nearly 78% of Soul’s user base comprises China’s Gen Z, the platform can use the views of its users to understand the intricacies of the digital social lives of Zoomers and what influences their behavior and attitude in the social sphere.
According to the survey initiated by Soul Zhang Lu and OMG China, China's Gen Z is a demographic characterized by high educational attainment, considerable spending power, and a palpable sense of national pride. In terms of figures, this cohort has an impressive population of approximately 180 million.
When it comes to academic accomplishments, nearly 38% of Zoomers proudly hold an undergraduate degree or higher, contributing to a staggering overall spending power of RMB 4.94 trillion. As far as this generation's undeniable patriotism is concerned, it is rooted in first-hand experiences of witnessing China's remarkable ascent on the global stage.
Amidst this backdrop, the Gen Z landscape is defined by a fervent desire to make money. 58.8% of Gen Z respondents said their life goal is to reach financial freedom. The thing they most longed for in 2023 was “make money”, followed by “stay healthy” and “spend time with loved ones”. This clear-minded pursuit of financial goals reflects the life pressures facing Gen Z owing to greater competition in the professional arena.
Also, it is indicative of the fact that the pursuit of good employment prospects is heating up in the aftermath of over 10 million university students graduating in 2022. In Tier-1 and "new Tier-1" cities, 83% of fresh graduates attach significant importance to their initial job experiences, viewing it as a pivotal factor influencing their entire careers.
Despite the added pressures, Gen Z is not defined solely by their professional ambitions. In navigating the complexities of life, they display a unique blend of independence and a yearning for meaningful connections. The majority of Zoomers are only children, so it comes as no surprise that a remarkable 74.7% of them reported making significant life decisions without overreliance on their parents' suggestions.
However, this distinct sense of psychological independence coexists with a desire to be on an equal footing with their parents and for emotional connections as 69% expressed that they would like their parents to rely more on them.
Furthermore, as Gen Zers embark on their careers, they embrace a duality of enjoying solitude and valuing companionship. This nuanced approach is also shaped by their status as only children, which fosters a deep sense of independence yet leaves them susceptible to loneliness.
A striking find of the Soul Zhang Lu & OMG Survey was that, unlike their predecessors, Gen Z actively seeks inspiring connections that fulfill their emotional needs. This emphasis on close friendships distinguishes them from Millennials and Baby Boomers. Zoomers tend to curate a close circle of friends, seeking authenticity and genuine connections. While interacting online, they don’t want to face the fear of being judged or the ramifications of their online connections and behavior on their offline lives.
Wang Yuancheng, a user on Zhihu, China's largest question-and-answer forum, encapsulated this sentiment perfectly when he said, "On Soul, my anxiety eases as I'm not afraid of showing my true self and speaking my mind. At turns, I can be a powerful player who calls the shots in games and leads my teammates to victory or a punch line-spouting chatterbox."
Despite the challenges and pressures they face, Gen Z remains remarkably resilient, finding solace in outlets such as social media and online shopping. These platforms serve as spaces where they can authentically express themselves, actively seeking emotional release amid an increasingly complex environment.
Delving deeper into the social approaches of Gen Z unveils a fascinating interplay between online and offline interactions. The survey initiated by Soul Zhang Lu revealed that with an average daily smartphone usage of 8.33 hours, Gen-Z users prefer the digital realm for its sense of safety and self-expression. Messaging, short videos, and community-based apps dominate their online landscape, indicative of a nascent need for a social metaverse.
As an early architect of this social metaverse, Soul App has naturally become a hub for social connection among Gen Z. The platform, where users seek information, have fun, and make friends, offers a more enriched, diversified, and meaningful social experience. Impressively, 64.51% of Gen Z Soul users consider Soul App their top destination for social interactions, underscoring its role in facilitating like-minded connections and meaningful exchanges.
The preference for virtual networking, however, does not diminish the value Gen Z places on face-to-face interactions. The boundaries between the virtual and physical worlds are blurred for young individuals, as they seamlessly socialize offline and share their experiences online.
Gen Z actively seeks like-minded individuals in interest groups, with 44.43% searching for new friends based on shared passions. Additionally, 40.36% actively look for a "tribe" of cyber friends, illustrating a desire for a sense of community and belonging.
The seemingly ever-evolving pattern of interactions among Gen Zers centers on shared interests and emotional value. As they navigate the intricate dance between solitude and companionship, genuine personal interests emerge as the strongest social glue.
In essence, this initiative of Soul Zhang Lu painted the picture of a generation that navigates life's complexities with resilience, ambition, and a profound appreciation for meaningful connections. The most important takeaway from these observations was that brands and observers will need to embrace the fluidity of Gen Z’s social landscape to authentically integrate into the dynamic lives of these youngsters.