Let’s face it, we live in a time where everything and anything revolves around social media. Everyone uses social media differently, whether it’s for their business to grow, or for their brand to increase their following, or even just for personal use, so they can share pictures and videos with their friends and family.
Living in a world where your self-worth is measured by likes and followers is unfortunately the reality of the current situation. The excessive amount of bullying teenagers are exposed to is double the amount of the 'good old days'. Before it was probably facing a bully or two in school, but now with social media, there's a lot more bullying happening. So, it's only natural at such an impressionable age, that one thinks twice about what they share on their accounts.
So how do teenagers (Generation Z) use social media nowadays?
Well, over 60% of TikTok users are made up of Gen Z, and Instagram has actually become a source of news for this generation too. We would resort to newspapers, CNN, BBC, but nowadays the younger generation is reverting to social media for all their uses. From shopping, to staying up to date with the news, Gen Z are actually the highest number of Instagram users, amounting to 67%.
Gen Z have never seen a world without internet, smartphones and social media. Their behavior is definitely fascinating to businesses and brands, as they are the future of social media. So, we decided to talk to a Gen Z member, Layla, and picked her brain about her thoughts and perspectives on social media. Let’s jump right in...
Layla downloaded Instagram when she was 10 years old...
We asked Layla which social media platforms she uses and she shared with us that she has TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. She has 1 account on each of these platforms, but 2 accounts on Instagram. One is her main account and the second is for close friends so she can post anything she wants without being ‘judged’.
The first thing we wanted to know, was when she joined the social media frenzy. Layla downloaded Instagram and Musically when she was 10 years old. She found them a bit confusing, but once she learned how to use them she ended up really liking them. Her parents told her to make her account private, and she wasn’t allowed to accept requests unless she knew who they were.
Her favorite platform is Instagram, because it combines all apps in one: she can text on it, watch TikTok videos and read people's captions just like Twitter.
"Some filters are funny and they change your face, so you look like an animal, other filters just make me feel more confident, because it can make my nose smaller, add eyelashes, makeup, change my skin color and other things." Layla
We thought it was necessary to ask Layla about what she learned from using social media for a few years now and how she views likes and followers.
- A few of the things Layla has learned from social media are: information about the COVID vaccines, what’s happening in Palestine and other worldwide problems.
- Likes and followers are important to her. She says people judge and make fun of others when they don’t get likes or if they have a small amount of followers.
- In general she thinks that most of the time social media can be very beneficial, as she managed to learn quite a few things from it. However, other times she believes it to have more of a negative impact.
- Being on social media helps uplift her mood when she watches funny videos, but sometimes social media can make her feel left out. For example, if someone posts that they’re at a party, it would only encourage the feeling of being left out.
- As for influencers, she thinks that some influencers are using their fame for the wrong reasons instead of spreading important news around world, they talk about drama with friends and relationships.
"I don't post often, I post when I have a nice picture of myself or a picture with friends and I have to make sure it matches my theme in my account." Layla
We had to ask if her circle of people view social media the same way as her or is there another perspective and here is what she had to say:
- Layla believes that most people her age have the same relationship with social media as she does. However, some people don’t post because they are afraid of being judged.
- She and her friends spend over 10 hours a day on social media. It’s the only thing she does on her phone besides texting people.
- When she’s not on social media she’s either training, studying or out with family or friends.
"Likes and followers are important to me because people judge and make fun of you when you don't get a lot of likes or if you don't have a lot of followers." Layla
Why did I decide to write this article? For a few reasons actually, first of all I was genuinely curious about understanding the mind of this generation. Secondly, Gen Z are the future purchasing power for businesses to come! So, we need to understand how they think because they will be the future of consumerism.
While interviewing Layla and gathering up these answers, it was quite interesting to see the major differences between the thoughts teenagers have nowadays vs. back in the day.
Sure we all go through the same things as teenagers, growing into our own bodies, insecurities, comparing ourselves to friends, but it seems to be a whole lot harder in this day and age where extreme exposure and algorithms play a big role.
It was only 20 years ago when the only way to know if someone went to an event was to meet them and see pictures on their Canon camera. While nowadays, you know what at least 20 people are doing throughout their day, their thoughts, actions etc…
Unfortunately studies published emphasize that overexposure on social media has increased the risk of depression and anxiety.
How the media is affecting Gen Z:
I know some of the answers you read above maybe seem a bit surprising but it is what it is, and this seems to be the current reality of how, not all, but how some teenagers view and use social media.
We were perhaps gifted with years of growing up without this over exposure. As you have seen this over exposure leads to the feeling of being left out and not living as well as others.
Not only that, but the media and algorithm have quite the effect on impressionable younger kids still growing up. The years where their personalities are being formed, an algorithm is targeting them to think in a specific way. In addition to so, the baby boomers generation, which are the parents of Gen Z, are having a hard time trying to understand such a complex issue.
My point is, don't read Layla's answers with judgement, read it with an open mind and think about how outside factors have created this new train of thought in their development. It's hard enough to cultivate deep relationships in this world nowadays, let alone doing it with the constant distraction of what hundreds of other people are doing across the globe.
Main Image Credits: Netflix: The Social Dilemma