Human civilization has always been averse to technological advances. Even Socrates opposed the development of writing, convinced that knowledge can only be gained through dialogue. The classical philosopher contended that writing something down causes one’s memory of the event to become distorted and one-dimensional. Regardless, writing became a staple of our civilization. Society progressed.
The internet, too, has spawned controversy in its time about its potential to “dumb” the world down. After the web became ingrained in everyday life, the rise of social media brought along similar concerns about its negative impact on humanity. And there are downsides. Social media directly impacts how individuals view themselves. With some 13-year-olds checking their social accounts as many as 100 times per day, researchers have warned of potential addiction issues. Other studies go even further, warning of self-esteem and depression issues.
Parents, educators and mental-health professionals alike continue to question whether social media is a positive or negative influence on Pivotals, especially as many are still teenagers (or younger) developing their personal identities. What is it about social media that has youth spending more time on it than sleeping or spending time with parents and teachers (even though most are in school full-time)?
“I think they’re addicted to the peer connection and affirmation they’re able to get via social media,” said child clinical psychologist Marion Underwood, co-author of the #Being13 study in an interview with CNN. “To know what each other are doing, where they stand, to know how many people like what they posted, to know how many people followed them today and unfollowed them..that, I think, is highly addictive.”
In other words, this is a generation riddled with not only FOMO – fear of missing out – but also FOLO – fear of living offline.
More than half of teens wanted to see if they were receiving likes and comments and more than a third wanted to see if their friends were getting together without them. Twenty-one percent wanted to confirm that nobody was saying hurtful things about them. While this may be a reflection of life stage, we tend to believe this is more revealing of a generation that has been guided by social media and digital technology their entire lives. As a result, they routinely fret about how their digital lives and identities impact their relationships with others IRL.
For brands, this means being aware of the anxieties they face and supporting Gen Z as they navigate the waters of growing up in an entirely new arena: the digital realm.
Want more on Gen Z? Stay tuned for Jeff Fromm & Angie Read’s new book, Marketing to Gen Z, coming Spring 2018. Pre-order here!