First it was calling a friend after school. Then it was AOL instant messenger and text messaging. Now, Gen Zers are turning to a new way of hanging out: the “live chill,” or a series of video chatting apps that make it easy to hang out with all your friends, from the privacy of your bedroom. Like so many other social concepts, the idea of “hanging out” is being remodeled. It is changing to adapt to our digital landscape.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, teens—aka Gen Z—are using Apps like Houseparty, Fam, and Airtime to spend time with each other after school ends. They do homework, chat, gossip—do all the things that happen organically when people get together. In fact, some apps, like Houseparty are engineered to recreate the effect of social spaces online. Online “rooms” fill up with members, filling a type of video chat “house” where users can move freely through an online space.
While it may be tempting to group these apps under the umbrella term of social media, there is something absolutely distinct about this aspect of the digital landscape. Where many see these apps as ways that increase sedentary behaviors and limit “real” hangout time, these are definitely a move away from the curated social media feeds of Facebook, and Instagram. They should be treated differently, perhaps closer to “analog” versions of socializing.
According to one study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, increased social media use is linked to depression in many young adults. While many believe that social media may increase existing depressive tendencies (i.e. using social media to fill a social ‘void’) this study showed that large amounts of social media use can trigger feelings of depression independently.
Anyone who has scrolled through their Instagram feed while sitting on their couch only to find perfectly curated pictures of friends at the gym or on the beach in Thailand knows that feeling on inadequacy; the idea that their life is dwarfed by everyone else’s exciting, meaningful lives. The study claims that these “highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives.” In a way, this type of social media is isolating.
With that in mind, now consider “live chill.” With apps like houseparty, there is no isolated engagement with the media. You are collaborating with peers, creating conversation in real-time. There is no filtering of experience. No comparing of your curate life to another person’s. Instead you are creating a shared experience. For those who were raised in the digital landscape of likes, filters and comments, this is a welcome break from a system of social judgment. According to the WSJ: “It’s more casual than other social media.”
Nearly all online social media platforms include some type of peer judgment system. On Instagram and Facebook it is the “like”. On Twitter it is the retweet. We have created a system of affirmation that boils down the complexity of peer acceptance down into a simple heart-shaped symbol. But it is so much more than that: it is also the mechanism that social media algorithms use to determine what content should feature in news feeds. It is both the means and the end: the systems scan our likes to determine what content we are more likely to like.
That is enough circular reasoning to send someone’s head spinning. And, for digital natives, that has been their nexus of social communication from a young age.
The live chill removes the algorithm from the equation. It may not be the physical social interaction but it includes many of the person-to-person aspects that are so early distorted by social media. You can’t be on a beach in Thailand, or bench pressing 700 pounds when you’re “live chilling.” You are where you are. There is no artifice.
Although many are viewing “live chilling” as the next move forward in social media, it may perhaps be a hearkening back to more analog days. It fuels the desire for real, non-curated, hanging out: something all generations can relate to.
At The Center for Generational Kinetics, we turn Millennial and Gen Z trends into fuel for your sales, marketing, employment, and growth.
Contact us today to see how we can help you unlock new sales and bridge the generational divide with #Millennials and Gen Z.