On track to become the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020, and already wielding $44 billion in buying power, Generation Z is becoming a key area of focus for marketers. And naturally, they’re looking to reach them online, where these digital natives spend 74 percent of their free time. Yet while today’s teenagers are just as tech savvy as the millennial generation, they have a unique perspective on the tech platforms they’re using.
To better understand what Gen Z really thinks about social media, I went straight to the source—by talking to my own teenage daughter, Charlotte Kerpen.
They’re not on Facebook.
To get a sense for her relationship to social media, I asked Charlotte which networks she’s currently on. “As for having an account, it’s Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Music.ly,” she says. But only Instagram and Snapchat are used regularly. According to a recent Piper Jaffray survey, 47 percent of teens consider Snapchat to be their favorite platform, while Instagram is the preferred platform of 24 percent of teens. Only 9 percent of teens prefer Facebook.
Snapchat’s redesign missed the mark.
Charlotte, like most of her peers, used to be an avid Snapchat fan. She was an early adopter and became part of its core user base. But since the platform’s redesign earlier this year, she’s been spending significantly less time on it. “My first instinct when I go on my phone is to click on Snapchat,” says Charlotte. “But I rarely stay on it. I click out and go on Instagram. When Snapchat updated, it became less appealing in my opinion. I’d see all of these different things, and it was just a lot on the screen.” She’s not alone. After launching its redesign, Snapchat received a petition with more than 1.2 billion signatures, asking the company to revert back. Yet despite the intense backlash, Snapchat actually saw an increase in U.S. downloads of the app.
They want to use social media for good.
This social-savvy generation is finding its voice online. “Before social media, it was a lot easier to ignore things that younger kids were trying to do, so with social media…it makes it easier for people to speak their minds,” says Charlotte. Yet while social media has the power to drive social change, she recognizes that its effects aren’t always positive. “It’s good in that people can speak out and have their voices be heard,” Charlotte concludes. “But people are getting addicted. It can be a good thing with regulation and being able to control yourself. But if you’re on your Instagram and Snapchat all the time, it can be bad for your [mental] health.”
Underlining this paradox, a study from Hill Holliday shows that while 41 percent of Gen Z say that social media makes them feel anxious, sad, or depressed, 77 percent say that it ultimately has more benefits than drawbacks. In fact, 71 percent of participants say that social media has a positive impact on their relationships, and 61 percent say that it gives them a boost to their ego.
Some may want to quit, but it’s not so easy.
That same Hill Holliday report reveals that 34 percent of Gen Z are permanently quitting social media, while 64 percent say that they’re taking a break from these platforms. They’re feeling left out, insecure, distracted—and just plain bored.
“There are very few actually good things about social media,” Charlotte argues. “It’s mostly bragging and feeling jealous and seeing bad things happen, seeing people hanging out without you. It just causes a lot of problems that wouldn’t otherwise be there.”
So would she quit? “That’s the thing,” she says, smiling. “It’s addictive. I tried deleting Snapchat the other day, and it lasted just two days. I had to redownload it. I felt like I was left out. Even if the things I was seeing on Snapchat made me feel left out, I felt left out by not feeling left out.”