The Direct Impact of Social Media on Gen Z Identity

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?



gen z identity

14 thoughts on “The Direct Impact of Social Media on Gen Z Identity

  1. Afra Reply

    The type of information i would post or i would recommend other people to post to have a positive impact towards young adults and the younger generation is the type of information that they would get something good out of. For instance information that they would like, not boring statics or cold information that they cant relate to but rather content like jokes that they might relate to, the newest trends, news that young adults and the younger generation can relate to. However, i would also post information that they can make use of like specific information that might relate to the younger generation about health issues. The goal for having positive content for the younger generation is to attract the readers in the way they would be willing to continue on to read or continue on to watch the certain clip etc.

  2. Shamma AlMarri Reply

    Your post is much appreciated because, it helped vastly back up my own essay in one of my classes which is called: “Introduction to Social Media”, in which your content is highly relevant to the topic of my essay and the content of the course I’m taking itself. The statistical percentage that is presented was highly helpful in backing up my essay, and adding credibility. Moreover, I totally agree with the point you stated above that “39% of Gen Zers say social media directly impacts their self-esteem” which is our reality in the 20th century. With those picture-perfect models portraying their plastic bodies/faces, majority of people feel insecure and feel the need to alter upon their own appearance in order to look like that; which as a result affects their self esteem highly.

  3. Maitha Alketbi Reply

    I like your post, the statistic that you mention in the post is showing us that social media play important role in impacting young generation’s life. Also I think social media has negative imapcts more than positive impacts.

  4. Najla Reply

    I appreciate your blog post. I believe that social media content has a great role in social awareness and implementing thoughts and beliefs that are contributing to the community success. As many perceive social media as a negative impact, people need to shed the light on the wide range of inspiring content.

  5. shaikha Reply

    Hi Dear,

    I really like the topic , it makes me really encouraging to read it tell the end. Its interesting , to read about something which could affect a Millions of generation Z around the world regarding their identity which is social media. Moreover, According to the figures that you post its really shocked me , because how this category of people get effected in their whole life and days because social media regarding to their feelings ” both happiness, sadness” , self-esteem , self-wroth and their popularity. However, its really an important issue that we really face , people throughput your this post they may realize and start to think about it in a way to help and benefit them instead of using social media with a huge direct impact on them. As Im one of this generation I think we should not use social media as an addicted thing that we can’t live without. For example, using social media in cases of study , using it for reading news about the word, posting an article and something benefit the people, share comments regarding things that you are interested in without making an negative effect on the people ..etc. However, I think in stated of creating a new content to avoid this impact on this generation , I think its better to try to make things related to this content and try to solve them.

    Kind regards,


  6. khawla Reply

    Hi Jordan,

    I believe that your blog pinpointed an important issue that we are facing now adays. I totally agree on the points you’ve mentioned above, but there are few points that I think you needed to mention. As a Gen Zers young adult, I think that these impacts depends on each person’s personality, in the means of: are they easily influenced or not? In my case, I separate my life away from new social media where I’m the controller, not the apps. i believe that its not necessary to create a content to impact positively on our next generation, but I believe that controlling and adjusting the current content is the solution. You might think that I refer to create restrictions, but I’m not. I mean to adjust the new social media to high educational and professional standards and in the same time use the source of attraction in a positive way to guarantee the positive effect.

    still, keep on posting these great ideas.

    Thank you.

  7. mahra Reply

    Learned a lot about the generation Z and their social media usage. Useful article for the freshers.

  8. Khulood Hassan Reply

    Actually, I agree with the 37% who say that social media directly impacts their happiness, because now social media changed people’s life, they can make money from social media like instagram’s business, advertisements and learn new things like how to put makeup from some of famous. On the other hand, it is sad to see the bad impact of social media on our world like the devastating impact that improper social media usage can have on an individual or group of individuals.

  9. Moaza Reply

    By posting and sharing positive awareness with evidence that will let them understand about whats going on and this type of awareness will make them see issues not just one-sided, but two-sided positively.

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  13. Maryam Ibrahim Reply

    What really caught my eye, and I agree with, is that youth do depend on social media when it comes to their self-esteem. Social media does play a huge part of who we are and who are we becoming, and it gets really scary sometimes to see it happen right in front of our eyes, that sometimes people loose themselves and their identity.


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