With 79 percent of Gen Zers – more than any other generation – reporting feelings of loneliness, social isolation has become a growing epidemic among young people. Studies suggest that these numbers have continued to climb following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the world opens back up, the need for social interaction and connection has never been more important. In an effort to tackle this demand, Eventbrite, the global event management and ticketing platform, has announced a multi-year initiative called The Social Connection Project that’s transforming the way we interact at live events.
They’ve tapped actress and Genius Entertainment CEO Marsai Martin to curate a collection of free Eventbrite events that showcase the power of live experiences to drive meaningful connections.
With Gen Z said to be the “loneliest generation in history,” Martin says this project is right on time.
“We have been through so much during [the pandemic]. The lack of connection that we’ve been having can slowly feel like you’re alone,” she tells ESSENCE. “I want the events in my special Eventbrite collection to encourage people to get out there, try something new and make new connections.”
Building connections and breaking down barriers has become second nature to the 17-year-old girl wonder. As an actress, CEO, and the youngest Hollywood executive producer in history, meaningful connections have played a vital role in her success.
“In this industry, especially being a young Black girl, there’s a lot of things that we have to do to break boundaries, and that can be a little scary at times,” she admits. “But having a support system around really helps in keeping me uplifted through the ups and downs of my career.”
Maintaining close ties with her support system is all about keeping her “circle tight” with the friends she’s grown up with as well as newfound industry companions. From her “big sis” Kelly Rowland to Hollywood’s new class of actresses like Storm Reid (Euphoria), Demi Singleton, and Saniyya Sydney (both of King Richard), Martin finds solace in the connections she’s built with those who have come before and are coming up alongside her. “I am able to be there whenever they need me. I’m always supporting them,” she shares. “Those are the true next leaders of our amazing, beautiful culture.”
And as the culture continues to evolve with new voices, Martin leads a generation of visionaries who aim to leave the world of cinema and TV better than they found it. Last year, the NAACP Image Award winner shared in an interview her “No Black Pain” approach to the projects she pursues and works on.
“When I said that, it did not sound profound to me. I think the fact that we see the lack of Black trauma on TV or in entertainment as profound is like a red flag to me,” she says. “If you look at award shows, that’s what gets the awards. We show our traumas and ourselves in a dark place, and that is not the only thing that we are.”
“As a creator, that’s not the only thing I want to see. I just want to spread joy. Like relatable, real content,” she adds. “Of course, pain is a part of the human emotional experience, but it is something that we don’t constantly have to normalize as it just being that.”
And speaking of pain, the agony of loneliness is all too real for many young people. Martin is looking forward to the work she is doing with Eventbrite in helping people overcome it. It all starts with a little vulnerability, even when it can be scary.
“Life is all about going against your fears, finding our confidence, and trying to figure out where we are in life,” Martin says. “And I’m not just talking to girls out there, I’m talking to myself as well. We have to get out of our comfort zone. We have to open up because that’s what makes us human.”