For China’s Zoomers, 2023 was a year of adaptation and self-discovery as they found themselves in a rapidly changing world. A survey conducted by the team of the founder of Soul Zhang Lu revealed that the pendulum of life swung between introversion and extroversion for Gen Z, as they made their way through the year.

The advent of AI, a monumental increase in professional competition and uncertainties, and the ever-prevalent need for companionship led youngsters to grapple with the intricate dance of inner reflection and engagement with the external world.

The December 2023 survey which was conducted by Just So Soul, the research division of Soul App found that the concept of “life coordinates” was emerging as a guiding principle for Zoomers in pursuit of self-definition and on a quest for identity through the intricate web of social connections.

Since 80% of the platform’s users are youngsters, Soul Zhang Lu could use the results of the survey to shed light on the evolving landscape of young minds seeking equilibrium amid the chaos of modern existence. More than 3800 people participated in the comprehensive social life survey and their responses offered many notable insights.

For starters, the results revealed that these youngsters were constantly subjected to a cacophony of conflicting values and existential uncertainties. A striking example of this was revealed by the fact that only 1 in 10 respondents said that they had a joyous existence sans complications. Most reported struggling with anxieties that stemmed from missed professional opportunities and guilt associated with leisure.

Yet, through this turbulent ride, young individuals managed to turn their pain points into opportunities to reach out and communicate with those who felt as they did. Also, it was clear that communication with friends and peers helped to relieve stress, as nearly 35% of respondents said that they shared their concerns with friends while 28.4% stated that they had no qualms about expressing their anxieties during networking events.

Despite the integral role played by communication in helping young people anchor themselves in the ever-changing sea of their personal and professional lives, offline networking was surprisingly on the decline. This was partly attributed to the “always at work” culture that is common in today’s professional landscape.

With little time on their hands to mingle about, it was no surprise that only 28% of those who responded to the survey from Soul Zhang Lu’s team stated that they had opportunities to make friends every year while 15% said that it has been a while since they forged new connections. The hyper-busy schedules and lack of time did compel youngsters to turn to digital socializing as was evident in the fact that over 57% of respondents claimed that they choose online friendship to make up for the lack of offline connections.

Furthermore, in light of this broad societal shift and the loosening of geographical and kinship ties, youngsters have started viewing self-love as the genesis of a lifelong romance. As such, low-dose narcissism has gained acceptance as it is now deemed a psychological necessity. Hence, caring for health, treating themselves well, and fostering positive connections have all emerged as key facets of this self-love.

According to the Soul Zhang Lu initiated survey, youngsters are also choosing a novel method of self-discovery – Imagining themselves as the “other”. Assuming the role of “the other”, (typically an animal or even a persona) helps Zoomers to explore their own identity albeit in a non-threatening and humorous manner.

This is in line with the keen desire that youngsters harbor for stress-free living. In fact, they not only desire a professional life without stressors but are also looking for zero pressure in their social lives. So, while 90% of them favor one-on-one or group social activities, they don’t spend more than 8 hours/week with their friends, which is indicative of a shift toward zero-pressure, light-hearted interactions.

 This trend also makes it obvious that youngsters value personal boundaries, which justifies trends like “dazi (buddy search)” where friendships resemble the assembling and reassembling of LEGO bricks, forming and dissolving with ease. Furthermore, Zoomers are as conformable with the notion of human-computer interaction as they are with human-to-human communication.

Because of their desire to escape from stress, youngsters are also increasingly seeking to give vent to their emotions through a variety of outlets. For some volunteering at temples gets them the solace they are looking for while others find rapid-fire dramas to be stress relievers; still others choose off-the-grid-escapes to blow off steam and many opt for “Crazy Literature” as a form of respite.

In terms of consumption, Gen Z is firmly headed toward reverse consumerism.  They are certainly not scrimping nor are they compromising on their wants. However, they have developed a rational consumer mindset. So, prices are now meticulously compared across platforms before a purchase is made. In other words, as choices become endless, Zoomers have mastered the art of extracting maximum value from the money they spend.

As far as health is concerned, perhaps Gen Z’s incline toward lazy healthiness can also be attributed to their uber-busy lifestyles. While youngsters are still concerned about their health, they just can’t seem to bring themselves to succumb to strenuous workout routines. Instead, they are opting for easier and more attainable methods and goals of well-being such as massages, footbaths, and moderate exercise.

 Also, Gen Z is making a profound effort to build a multifaceted “Nearby”. The survey conducted by the team of Soul Zhang Lu found that youngsters are frequenting neighborhood parks and street markets and even using digital space to complement their “physical nearby”. This is helping them to maintain and to some extent even reestablish control over their life. 

The unearthing of these diverse social trends by the survey launched by the team of Soul Zhang Lu simply goes to show that youngsters are investing a significant amount of time, effort, and mental bandwidth to find and connect with their life coordinates, and social connections are a vital channel for them to find these life coordinates.