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Last issue we dug into the social phenomenon everyone was talking about: GameStop. Here's a take on the appeal of "social finance" from a Millenial/Gen Z perspective. My colleague and collaborator Julia Dixon on social media trends transferring to real-world behaviors with very real implications. — Chris
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When Learning Trumps Earning

You no longer need a whopping $10 million to invest with Goldman Sachs. This week, the firm unveiled digital platform
Marcus Invest, which allows anyone with $1000 and a smartphone to access leading financial management and insight. The news comes at a time when everyday investor interest is escalating, with downloads of top trading apps more than doubling in January. The appeal is especially strong among Millenials and Gen Z, who historically face barriers to entry including lack of formal financial education and limited spare income. 

Now young people are using their collective voice to take the trading world by storm. As an interviewee on The
Journal podcast stated, "Knowledge is everywhere now, it's not just restricted to a certain class of people. And we’re not idiots, we can teach ourselves things." Robinhood and others are democratizing access and knowledge in both empowering and concerning ways. And real-time platforms like Discord, Reddit, and Twitter are spreading the word. This knowledge-sharing inspired many to join what felt like a significant movement last month. As one young GME investor put it: 

"It was such a microcosm of the way our generations see investing. This was 100% about being part of the experience for us. Well, at least 70%."

The spread of this meme-like behavior usually reserved for online activity into the regulated, complex world of finance is indicative of a major mindset migration. Social media has become real life. 

WSJ's six-minute take on the Millenials and Gen Z reimagining investing. 
The shift is evident in the collective education mindset that has long-reigned online. As a Gen Z financial influencer on TikTok put it, the GME frenzy was much more of a "learning opportunity" than a buying one. It's also driven by the desire to belong and feel engaged, especially during pandemic-induced loneliness. One Robinhood user I spoke to explained, "When my stocks reach highs I get excited, which is a hard-to-come-by feeling these days, and all my group chats go crazy." 

Yes, Robinhood and Acorn have a gamified, social-like interface (including emojis, confetti, and color-coded charts). But the democratization of knowledge and camaraderie surrounding recent trading frenzies indicate that social media and trading aren't just linked by emotive user experience or even by intel-sharing platforms like YouTube and TikTok. We're witnessing the spread of an entire mindset to a new space — perhaps due to declining trust and interest in the old ones — that blurs the line between social and the real world. 

As explored in last week's
take, social media is experiencing a phase change, altering the nature of where and how people spend their time. Consistent with other behaviors we've been tracking, social-like behavior around finance will change markets and influence what the market delivers back — as Goldman Sachs demonstrates. What industries will be next?

Julia Dixon

 
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What We're Reading
Media Intelligence
The Problem With Clubhouse
By Diyora Shadijanova, Vice
Clubhouse is facing one of the greatest challenges of modern times: misinformation. The increasingly popular audio-only app is allowing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 to spread unchecked. The app plans to prioritize and offer new moderation resources, but the emotional and quick-paced nature of audio is proving difficult to monitor. 
Modern Content Canvas
Gen Z Is Crashing the Servers of the Hot New App, Hive
By Kate Lindsay, nofilter
There are plenty of reasons users are unhappy with dominant social media platforms: oversaturation, finicky algorithms, QAnon... the list goes on. Enter Hive Social, the buzzy photo and status sharing app that became the No. 1 free offering in the App Store before its servers crashed four times from overload. Its sudden popularity suggests users have reached a breaking point in their fatigue with mainstream social media platforms.
New Influence
Cottagecore Was Just the Beginning
By Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic

Cottagecore, a subculture about pretending to live an idyllic life in the woods, was widely considered one of the biggest online phenomena of an extremely online year. The aesthetic has mutated into niches and nooks on Aesthetics Wiki — an online encyclopedia of “visual schema.”  This one-stop-shop for figuring out whether your vibe is more “cactuscore” or “synthwave” or “pastel goth" speaks to the internet's increasing impulse for classification and community. 

Polyculture
How a Shadow Army of Ghost Kitchens Took Over America’s Restaurants
By Adam Chandler, Marker

The rise of ghost kitchens and digital restaurants, a new pandemic-fueled model with no in-person ordering and no in-store dining, is the defining dining trend of the past few years. By one industry estimate, there are now about 100,000 virtual restaurants in the United States alone, with many bearing suspiciously search engine optimized names like the Omelette Farm and Pizza of New York. Research firm EuroMonitor predicts that ghost kitchens will be a $1 trillion industry in 10 years.

Media Intelligence
The Mysterious Photo of a Purple Flower That Receives 78 Million Hits Each Day
By Louise Matsakis, Rest of the World

Chris Albon, director of machine learning at the Wikimedia Foundation, recently tweeted that a photo of a flower taken in 2004 was accounting for 20% of data requests for media to one of the organization’s servers. This investigation uncovers how India’s TikTok ban may have inadvertently caused the random image to go viral. 

New Influence
In Defense of Blocking on Clubhouse
By Casey Newton, The Platformer

Context collapse — the disorientation that comes from addressing infinite audiences online, each with their own norms and expectations for others’ behavior — is driving more and more conversation away from the public square. And while platforms have gradually begun paying more attention to safety issues, trolling and harassment remain a fact of life for too many people who use social networks. As a result, blocking is having a moment. 

Emerging Technology
Unreal Engine Falls Deeper Into The Uncanny Valley With MetaHuman Creator
By Andrew Paul, INPUT

Unreal Engine has been pushing the envelope on gaming and programming graphics for years, but its latest offering looks to be one of its most impactful yet. The company unveiled its new MetaHuman Creator, an upcoming cloud-based design app it claims will allow users to create near-photorealistic character designs in less than an hour. 

Deep Take
The Great Unbundling
By Benedict Evans

Covid brought shock and a lot of broken habits to tech and accelerated everything that was already changing. 20 trillion dollars of retail, brands, TV, and advertising is being overturned, and software is remaking everything from cars to pharma. What does all this mean as tech enters its second 50 years?

Copyright © 2021 Weber Shandwick



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