From selfies to support, Gen Z are coping with the impact of social media better than we think.
Today ZAK , the Next Generation Agency launches their new study ‘Generation Anxious’. We examined how Gen Z are destigmatizing the mental health conversation by refusing to sanitize it.
From Discord to TikTok, young people are using digital spaces to find solidarity, vulnerability, humour and hope. The key issue for brands is how to be of use in the conversations rather than appear to be virtue signaling. Interpreting the apparent openness on the subject matter of a Gen Z Audience is not an invitation. It’s way more complex than that.
57% agree that media representation of social media is unfair in context of mental health
Nearly half use social media to be part of a community
Over a third say they are a more resilient generation because they are more connected and use social media to support each other
A recently released study looks to challenge the popular rhetoric that the internet and social media are the main reason behind Gen Z’s mental health issues.
Gen Zers are the most empowered generation of all time – they have grown up on the wave of social media where acceptance is the currency of choice. And yet, they are the unhappiest generation yet. Research from UCL reveals depression levels amongst Gen Zers are the two thirds higher than Millennials – we know something in modern life is undermining their mental health and media tells us it’s the internet.
However a study released by ZAK the Next Generation Agency (www.zakagency.com/selfhood/generation-anxious/) challenges this thinking with 57% saying that the media representation of social media is unfair in the context of mental health issues, and 42% agreeing that the reputation of social media is outdated.
Instead this generation are using digital spaces to find solidarity, vulnerability, humour and hope. With 54% of 18-24 year olds admitting to getting lonely, they feel condemning the internet for creating an anti social generation is wrong, supported by almost half (49%) saying they use it to be part of a community. Social media both commodifies their loneliness and offers them a cure.
With their usage on social running flat, or even in decline some Gen Z’ers have lost interest in how mass mainstream social has become, preferring to retreat to micro communities. In ZAK’s recent survey Gen Z said they prefer to talk in private message threads rather than open forums and feeds where they can share more openly. Whilst this isn’t a space in which brands can typically play, there is a way to carve into this culture. Brands are feeling vulnerable amidst the pressure to move at the speed of culture, but be warned Gen Z would prefer long term commitment to one thing, rather than a finger in every pie.
“Mainstream media attributes a lot of negative outcomes to social media without realising how much good it is doing. It’s here to stay as a medium, it will change form and format, but it’s not going anywhere. As the first generation of social natives, Gen Z communities use online (and offline) communities in a way that is useful to them, it’s a means of expression and finding like-minded people to share thoughts and feelings with, it’s not just another broadcast media to them. The key issue for brands is how to be of use in the conversations rather than appear to be virtue signaling. Interpreting the apparent openness on the subject matter of a Gen Z audience is not an invitation. It’s way more complex than that.” Matt Bennett CCO ZAK.
Gen Z believe that they are a resilient generation and can face adversity better than most. Social media, they believe, is key to that. Almost a third attribute it to the fact they use social media to support each other and as a coping mechanism and 35% believing it is because they are more connected to each other. Not only that they believe their resilience is born out of being confident to expose the real them, with 40% saying they are more resilient from exposing the good and the bad, and 1 in 5 agreeing they are happy to be vulnerable and put themselves out there.
The argument that social media is obliquely bad for your mental health feels paper thin compared to the complex human communities that exist online. With Generation Z coping better than we think, Brands’ efforts to insert themselves into this generational shift will just require significant sensitivity.