Cigna made the news in the Spring of 2018 after releasing an eye-opening loneliness study.
After surveying over 20,000 American adults on the topic, the health insurance provider concluded that loneliness is an epidemic afflicting most Americans, but that Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) and Millennials (adults ages 23-37) suffer from feelings of disconnection the most. The study also found that those who engaged in frequent meaningful interactions were less lonely and those who did it on the daily felt even less isolated.
While social media use was not found to be a predictor of loneliness, The Meet Group, which owns social dating apps MeetMe (Android, iOS), Skout (Android, iOS), Tagged (Android, iOS), and LOVOO (Android, iOS), was still curious to see if the Live video chat component of its MeetMe app could make its users feel more connected.
The company sent out a survey to MeetMe users, and of the 6,000 respondents, a whopping 70 percent reported that using the Live video feature very often made them feel less lonely. The percentage went down as users used the feature less. This is compared to only about 40 percent of respondents who never use Live reporting that MeetMe helps them feel less lonely.
"We see a clear correlation to the fact that the respondents who reported using the Live feature at a lower frequency of either Occasionally (46 percent), Rarely (44 percent), or Never (41 percent) lessened their ability to use it as a tool to combat loneliness," said The Meet Group's VP of Live Streaming, Lauren Hallanan.
According to The Meet Group, in just over one year, over 100,000 MeetMe users have found new friends and communicate with millions of them daily, spending 25 million minutes a day just chatting.
Download.com spoke to Hallanan -- whose job it is to both educate the public on live streaming through her podcast "Stream Wars," writing articles, or speaking at events, as well as spot and adapt Chinese live streaming trends for a Western audience -- about this new phenomenon and how it can make users feel less lonely during the holidays.
How did The Meet Group first enter the world of live streaming?
We began closely following the popular Chinese social networking and dating app MoMo (Android, iOS) in early 2016 after they added live streaming to their platform, and we saw how successful the feature was for them. We have a similar business model and thought it might be a good fit for us, so we began working on our own live video solution, and we launched it in March 2017.
We saw what we considered tremendous promise in video and believed we could leverage our video solution across more users. We acquired Skout, Tagged, and LOVOO and began monetizing Live in October 2017 and grew the video business [significantly] in just 12 months.
On average, as of the third quarter of 2018, our platform had 117,000 broadcasters each day with an average of over 25 million minutes spent in video daily in October. No product in our history has grown faster or has transformed our company to the degree live streaming has.
What's the value-add for users?
Live streaming video makes dating apps entertainment platforms. That's why I consider live streaming the future of dating. Rather than act as a utility, connecting users to each other and getting out of the way, I believe dating apps must be more. They must reduce loneliness. They must entertain.
There is a reason the local, neighborhood bar has been an offline dating platform for centuries: it's entertaining. You can hang out there and feel less lonely. There is more to a bar than the person at the end of it, who may say, 'Yes,' or may say 'No.' But either way, there is a band playing, there is a game on the television, and there is a drink in your hand.
Dating apps need to be the bar, the good bar, the right bar for every person...the gay bar, the sports bar, the cocktail bar, the neighborhood bar. That's the future of dating, and I believe video enables it.
Are there any unexpected ways that users are using live streaming?
We have streamers with a wide variety of talents on our platforms. For example, outside of the traditional talents like being engaging conversationalists, we also have a streamer, Tagged, who writes her own poetry and performs spoken word, and on MeetMe we have a streamer who does glassblowing.
We also have streamers who share their lives abroad. For example, a top streamer on Skout shares his life as an expat living in Tokyo. And we have other streamers that stream while they are traveling.
And on a more personal level, we have some streamers who have told us that they have used streaming to help them with their social anxiety. Through streaming, they have gained confidence in their ability to interact and meet new friends.
How does live streaming make users feel less alone?
When it comes specifically to the dating industry, I believe that chat-based platforms like Tinder (Android, iOS) aren't as effective to combat loneliness. These apps are utilities, promising users the perfect match in a short amount of time.
When there are not enough inbound chats, which for many users, there too often are not when most chats go to the most attractive users, the result can be even more profound loneliness. And that's why I believe dating combined with live streaming has such incredible potential. Live streaming reduces loneliness when users don't have enough chats. I believe chats and live streaming are complementary, providing 24/7 opportunities for entertainment and connection.
Live streaming is authentic and raw. Viewers watch streamers think in real time; they see their visceral reactions. What you see is what you get.
What's more, online communities build up around our top streamers. People find a streamer they resonate with, and as they interact with the streamer, they also start developing relationships with the other regular viewers. People show up to the stream every day not just to watch the streamer, but because they know all their friends will be there, too.
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Does the importance of live streaming to form connections increase during the holidays?
I think so. Even though it's supposed to be the happiest time of the year, for many people, the holidays can trigger feelings of disconnection, isolation, and loneliness. Not everyone can go home to see their families, or even when they are around family, it may be a stressful environment. Live streaming can provide an escape.
I recently did a podcast interview with the top streamer on the MeetMe app, Holly, and she told me, 'Probably the number one reason why I stream every single day is because there are so many people that tell me on a daily basis that they were dealing with depression or they were so sad and they didn't have anyone to talk to. But at the end of the day, they always knew that they could come into my live stream and they could smile and they could count on me to be there for them when nobody else in the world was.'
A number of our top streamers have shared with me that they strive to make their streams positive, happy places where their fans can go to be around like-minded people that they may not be able to find in real life. I believe having a community like this could help someone get through what to them may be a difficult time of the year.
- The Meet Group sent out a survey to MeetMe users, and of the 6,000 respondents, a whopping 70 percent reported that using the Live video feature very often made them feel less lonely.
- Live streaming may provide an escape from the loneliness people often feel over the holidays.
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