3 Ways Gen Z is Using Tech Behind Your Back

Think you’re in sync with how Generation Z is using apps these days? Think again.

The world’s digital natives continue to come up with their own use cases and hacks for all of the tech you thought you were up-to-date on. I talk to a lot of high school and college students, and there’s a common theme emerging around having genuine and ‘real’ interactions — and rejecting the exhausting work of maintaining a perfect online personal brand.

Here are a few new things I’ve learned about how they’re using tech:

Finstagram

Ever notice your 18-year-old niece only posts to Instagram, like, once every two months? Does it make you think Instagram is soo over? Yeah, no, it’s not that. It’s because she has a Finsta. Check out the Urban Dictionary definition of a Finsta below:

A fake instagram account, so one can post ratchet pictures without persecution from sororities, jobs and society as a whole
Rebecca: “I posted a pic of Kenzie smoking on my finsta!!” 
Catherine: “that’s awesome!!”

Almost every high school senior or college sorority girl I’ve asked admits to having a Finsta. They don’t use their real name or real photo, and of course, all Finstas are private.

In fact, a couple girls told me they won’t let their Finsta followers top a hundred, so they keep their audience as tight-knit as possible. Finsta feeds feature the real party pics, relatable memes, silly selfies, and re-posts of interesting, raunchy, or just plainly hilarious Snapchats they want to memorialize somewhere.

Uber

I’ve heard Uber has some pretty sweet deals for college students riding in big cities, but I have yet to talk to any student who uses Uber regularly at school. In more rural college towns, students generally don’t have the funds to Uber to class, nor do their towns have a supply of local drivers to where it make sense for a last minute solution.

Instead, in Greek organizations, the fraternity brothers and their girlfriends get the chauffeur service treatment by posting their location in their house GroupMe conversation, and quickly field ride offers from pledges looking to earn brownie points from the higher ups.

Even more interesting: across several college campuses I’ve visited, students have told me about school-wide Facebook groups for Designated Drivers (DDs). It’s basically Fuber. Non-drinking kids who need some extra pocket change will post their phone number in the group on a Friday night, and party-goers will call them at all hours of the morning for a $1 ride for on-campus routes, and $2 for off-campus. Savvy DDs will pack their trunk with Gatorade, disposable flip flops, and condoms, that they’ll sell for $5 a pop to drunk riders in need. More often than not, the payment is accepted via…

Venmo

Nearly everyone uses Venmo. Venmo is so big among current college students that what used to be a simple utility has basically become its own social network with its own set of rules, etiquette, and inside jokes. If you’ve never Venmo-stalked someone, you’re out of the loop. Go Venmo stalk someone right now and figure out what you’ve been missing.

Venmo provides a peephole into how, and with who, your friends are spending their time (well, their money) and moreover — the events you’re missing out on. In a world of Amaro filters and vague, 1-second Snap stories that can be manipulated to seem like your bathroom is the hottest party of the year, the Venmo feed literally makes you put your money where your share button is.

Venmo is so easy to use, and kind of hilarious. Girls will send each other 10¢ back and forth just to send a public ‘I miss you!’ note that cuts through the noise of other social media, while not inviting a full on conversation.

Guys will open the worldwide feed and comment on complete strangers’ payments with jokes, or words of encouragement to fellow bros whose payments imply they’ve been on a date.

Pranksters who’ve been asked to enter their Snapchat info or cell number into someone’s phone will instead open Venmo and send themselves some cash, expecting to get a request for the money back over the next few days — the ultimate Cinderella slipper move of 2017.

My favorite Venmo use case is the get-rich-quick-hack. When they’re feeling low on dough, college students will Venmo-charge fifty of their friends for $1. Suddenly, that individual is $50 richer. Apparently fifty is also the daily limit for how many people you’re able to charge on the app, so if you need more than $50, you have to start at 11:50pm to benefit from a clean charging slate at 12am. Students don’t feel bad doing it, because they say they all donate those dollars back to each other in the same fashion when others are in need.


The one thing I continue to see with Gen Z users is that they’re on a constant search for authenticity and community in any social interaction. They look for a sense of belonging, and they care very deeply for the friends who qualify for roles in their online ‘cafeteria table’ and late-nite-Venmo-charge circles.

They don’t want to take themselves so seriously. They don’t want to one day have to sift through 22 years of Facebook posts to prepare for their first job interview.

They’ve been presented with a library of tech products that don’t actually hit the mark for genuine friendships, memories, or life events, and have now sorted through all of them — coming out the other side with a hacky, underground, yet far more genuine take on the platforms we think we know. Watch this space.


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