Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with social media as an inherent part of their lives. In fact, their love of social media has been coined a “digital opioid” by some experts, with one study suggesting that Gen Z teens spend an average of 9 hours on their phones each day; more time than eating or sleeping. It’s no surprise that for a lot of Gen Z smartphones are considered as important as food and shelter.
While the previous generation of young people grew up with personal computers in the home, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with easy access to devices with internet access and social media — in fact, they do not have memories of a time before smartphones and social media.
Gen Z have used social media since they were young children, meaning that for many of them, social media is just “the way things are done”. But what impact is social media having on their mental health and well-being?
Study sheds light on social media’s impact on Gen Z
According to an ExpressVPN study, social media metrics (such as likes, comments, followers) have a profound impact on Gen Z’s well-being.
The researchers surveyed 1,500 Americans aged 16-24 to find out what impact social media has had on their lives. What they found was alarming.
- 61% of Gen Z say the number of likes they receive directly effects their self-esteem.
- 47% say they delete posts that don’t get enough likes.
- 86% admitted social media has a direct impact on their happiness.
An interesting find is that Gen Z feels less anxiety when there are fewer visible metrics. When asked about Instagram & Facebook’s hidden likes feature, 62% said it helped decrease anxiety, while 70% said it helped make posting more enjoyable and authentic.
So it seems social media companies are now starting to go in the right direction, but there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done. How can we help Gen Z manage these metrics and create a space where they can share authentically, without letting those numbers impact their mental health? How can we let Gen Z enjoy social media as just another aspect of life — not something that has the power to define who they are as an individual?
So many parents and educators are afraid to talk about social media with Gen Z, but it’s time we do something to help them navigate this new world, because the reality is that the way Gen Z uses social media will create a lasting impact on our society for years to come.