Generation Z was raised on the internet, never experiencing what it means to be offline. With more than 96 percent of the generation owning a smartphone and spending upwards of four hours per day online , they genuinely have become the rank of the internet.
The ubiquity of social-media usage among Gen-Z, and their specific preferences, fuels a large portion of contemporary marketing strategies and defines the transient rise of YouTube and Instagram celebrities. However, the digital medium often lacks a personal connection in the real world, contributing to why Gen-Z is the loneliest of all current generations.
"For baby boomers, friend-making had always been done in real life and maintained in real life. For Millennials, friend-making was done in real life, but maintained online. For Gen-Z, there has been a huge progression into going full digital, where friend-making is being done online and maintained online," says Allen Loh, co-founder of up-and-coming social media app Monkey.
The sheer popularity of social media has often clouded some of its adverse undercurrents that are hard to identify. For instance, Loh cites the problem with the type of content and interaction that is the standard on mediums like Facebook and Instagram.
"In this hyper-connected world where user-to-user touchpoints in the digital world are exploding, Gen-Z is actually growing more and more lonely due to the constant pursuit of superficial connections," he says. "On many social apps, users are experiencing the constant social pressure of chasing vanity metrics (e.g., 'likes' and 'followers') and participating in 'inactive social media time' of endless scrolling of the infinite newsfeed for hours."
To address the problem that Loh and co-founder and CEO Eric Tao, observed, they created a new kind of social-media app--Monkey. Catering towards Generation Z, Monkey has leaped up the Apple iOS App Store charts, becoming a Social Top 5 most downloaded app and experiencing more than 12x growth in the latter half of 2017.
A platform designed to help Gen-Z foster meaningful and personal connections of friendship, Monkey is a refreshing take on social media for the internet's generation.
Digitally Connecting Gen-Z
At its core, Monkey is a new medium for teens and younger users--85 percent of its users are under the age of 22--using the platform to converse in one-on-one conversations, tapping into unique friend discovery features, and uploading creative, short-form videos called "moments."
"Moments are designed to take away the 'pockets' of users, allowing them to connect more freely in an open environment," says Loh. "On other platforms, a user may spend a long time searching to find a group to join. Moments focuses on allowing people, specifically teens, the ability to discover and be discovered immediately, allowing them to quickly uncover new friends and perspectives." This structure of the platform pushes users towards meaningful, positive, and creative relationships through direct conversations with other users.
While such a method of discovery may seem bizarre to older generations, many teens and young adults alike are using the resources of the internet to discover their best friends, significant others, and even find long lost family members. While it may be difficult to understand how online relationships mirror (and may even be deeper) than "in real life" (IRL) ones, there are numerous studies and examples that highlight just how deep personal online relationships can become. From heartfelt tributes to friends never met in real life, to gamers meeting for the first time at the bedside of a terminally ill friend--the bond is real.
Monkey does not rely on a news feed or follower-prone dynamic, but rather offers a way to converse genuinely with friends all over the world.
"Monkey's mission is to foster engaging conversations for its Gen-Z users, where they can truly connect socially, rather than spending time mindlessly scrolling or chasing superficial likes," says Loh.
Monkey is not strictly limited to one-on-one conversations and groups of friends but rather aims to build an ecosystem that fosters creativity among artists and designers--leading to an imaginative merchandise background with exclusive products, attuned to the consumer inclinations of a younger generation.
Becoming a Design and Merchandise Ecosystem
As part of Monkey's meteoric rise, the platform has earned cameos from the likes of "GotDamZo" of Wild'N'Out and exclusive brand and merchandise drops from artists and designers based in Los Angeles.
Users can claim products offered on the platform in return for its native cashless currency, "Bananas." Similar to the strategy of popular streetwear brand Supreme, Monkey is gaining favor among creative-minded designers and artists who are engaging directly with other users on independent product drops.
"Monkey incorporates fashion and pop culture onto its platform, allowing the brand to stay culturally relevant for its users," says Loh. "Bananas are the social currency on Monkey and are used as credit to buy exclusive products designed and made exclusively for Monkey users."
The unique brands and merchandise on the platform have already garnered significant attention among users, with drops selling out instantly and secondary market prices surging. "Monkey merch items have been discovered on the resell streetwear market, with one custom reworked piece selling for as much as $400," says Loh. "The last production sold out in 3-4 minutes, selling out thousands of items and all inventory."
As a way for fostering personal connections among Gen-Z, Monkey has captured a significant amount of notice on other social-media platforms like YouTube, where videos about the platform have organically generated more than 100 million views. Monkey is a platform with a unique approach and a dual narrative of discovering creative talent and connecting an increasingly lonely generation with meaningful conversations that may develop into long term friendships.
Tao and Loh have their sights set on redefining the goals of social media, emphasizing just being yourself. "Monkey aims to be the best platform for people that wish to be discovered to creatively and authentically express themselves in an overly crowded, hyper-connected, Instagram-perfect, driven world."