Take a moment and think about what directly impacts how you feel about yourself. Did things like your relationships, your job, how much money you make, how often you travel, etc. come to mind?
Now take another moment to reflect on the fact that tens of millions Gen Zers–those who were born since around 1995–believe social media has a direct impact on their happiness, well-being and self-esteem.
Let’s attach some figures to this reality from The Center for Generational Kinetics’ 2016 National Study on Technology and the Generation after Millennials:
- 42% of Gen Z says social media directly impacts their self-worth
- 37% of Gen Z says social media directly impacts their happiness
- 39% of Gen Z says social media directly impacts their self-esteem
- 29% of Gen Z says social media directly impacts their popularity
- 38% of Gen Z says social media directly impacts their influence
- 27% of Gen Z says social media directly impacts their dating prospects
“This impact will likely only grow as [Gen Z] gets older and has more freedom when it comes to their social media experience. In short, if you think social media is important to [Gen Z] now, just wait another five years.” – Jason Dorsey, Chief Strategy Officer at The Center for Generational Kinetics
New Report Details the Devastating Effects Social Media Has On Generation Z
A more recent study from January 2018 conducted by Barna Research Group reiterated the negative effects of students’ relationships with technology. Namely, in comparison to Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers, members of Gen Z are more emotionally affected by the dangers of social media.
Researchers surveyed 1,490 nationally representative American students between the ages of 13 and 18. Here are some of the key points found in the report:
“I have experienced bullying on social media.”
- Gen Z: 33%
- Millennials: 29%
- Generation X: 20%
- Boomers: 12%
“Looking at other people’s posts often makes me feel bad about the lack of excitement in my own life.”
- Gen Z: 39%
- Millennials: 34%
- Generation X: 24%
- Boomers: 8%
“Looking at other people’s posts often make me feel bad about the way I look.”
- Gen Z: 31%
- Millennials: 30%
- Generation X: 20%
- Boomers: 4%
After seeing these numbers, is it sad that I immediately perceive social media’s impact in a negative light? Documentaries like Screenagers and Audrie & Daisy come to mind when I see Gen Zers and the seemingly lifelong bond to their screens, or the devastating impact that improper social media usage can have on an individual or group of individuals.
In a sea of both meaningful and superficial likes, comments and reposts (or an overall lack thereof), it is no surprise that Gen Zers believe that identity is inextricably linked to and dependent on their online selves. It’s tough, too, to think about how and where we (the older generations) can position ourselves to make a difference when our budding counterpart out-uses us on ever social media platform.
A Call for More Meaningful Content for Gen Z
While there’s no sign of Gen Zers snipping their social media ties–indeed, it weaves us all together–maybe we should focus on how our presence can make a difference.
As we’ve seen with all technology in the last two decades, it trickles up so that even your grandparents are becoming savvy on some platforms. Instead of being off-put by grandma’s charming or slightly alarming Instagram posts, we need to think hard about how Millennials and their predecessors can produce online content that directly impacts Gen Zers’ self-worth, happiness and self-esteem in healthy and positive ways.
Gen Z is the generation most internally affected by social media; this finding is where I think we need to start. Not only does social media affect internally but externally, too. We have the opportunity to create content that can both reach and impact those who engage with it.
So parents, educators, mentors, leaders… What kind of content will you create to positively impact our next generation? How will you build them up?
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