This article is based on excerpts from the book ‘Hello Gen Z’ by Claire Madden. This is the second part of a feature on the top 10 reasons why Generation Z use social media. To read Part 1, click here.
Over 100 members of Generation Z (that is, those born 1995-2009) shared their thoughts on what impacts technology have in their day-to-day lives, and unsurprisingly, social media is a big part of the picture. Analysis of the research data highlighted 10 primary reasons why Gen Z use social media, and in this article we’ll walk through 5 more of the top 10 reasons. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
“If you turn your phone off for two hours you will miss three deaths and a breakup… I get separation anxiety.” Jamaica, b.2000
FOMO, the “Fear Of Missing Out”. It’s a big deal. The term has been coined to describe Gen Zs approach to life in general, and in particular as a major factor that drives so much of their online behaviour, use of technology and consumption of social media.
The need that Gen Zs feel to be ‘in the know’ encompasses being across the latest YouTube videos to knowing which ‘memes’ are ‘in’ this week (and equally, which ones are now ‘out’), having the latest smartphone to being on the right social media platforms, being in the loop regarding what’s unfolding amongst friends and social networks and being across pressing world news (if it’s a news item we’re meant to care about, of course). One viral meme aptly describes the mentality: “New iPhone announced – shut up and take my money!” Gen Z do not want to miss out!
“It also both relieves boredom and helps with boredom at the same time. I find it easy just to scroll my feed for a while.” Curtis, b.1998
The generation who have grown up in the age of digital technology have been overly stimulated through screens, entertainment apps and visual messaging throughout their lifetime. They are often addicted to the feeling of being wired due to a constant state of activity, connection and stimulation. When that feeling is fleetingly absent, boredom kicks in. The antidote? You got it – social media!
Boredom also seems to set in incredibly easily and quickly. So addicted are Gen Z to the constant over-stimulation of push notifications, Instagram likes, text messages and Snapchats, ‘boredom’ seems to onset simply when there is a short period in their day without such instant stimulation.
Convergence and Convenience
“When you wake up in the morning first you turn off your phone alarm. Then you turn your alarm off and you think, “I’m already on my phone,” so you check Instagram and you check Snapchat.” Sophie, b.2000
The smartphone – a product of the ever-increasing consumer expectation towards greater convenience and convergence. Alarm clocks that used to be a bedside feature have been replaced with the smartphone alarm as part of the clock app, along with stopwatches and egg timers. In the space of just a few decades playing music has moved from LP record players to cassette tapes, to CD players, to MP3 files and now to music streaming from personal devices. Smartphones have largely become the personal device of choice to provide navigation systems, emails, calendars, news, web searching, podcasts and social media platforms.
The flip side of having all these useful applications in one device is that it is now incredibly easy to access and engage with multiple social media platforms at once. Even when intending to use the device for a different purpose, the convenience, convergence and accessibility leads to further use and engagement.
Create and manage personal brand
“Life is constantly revolving around what other people are doing – and projecting an image – you’re constantly branding yourself – and you can easily create a false brand online.” Julia, b.2000
The art of managing social media profiles for others to follow has led to the need to create and manage a ‘personal brand’ online. This motivator for using social media is not unique to Gen Z, with professionals in the business community increasingly discussing their need to carve out, build and manage an individual online brand. LinkedIn for example has become a platform where professionals manage their own brand, including their online Curriculum Vitae – and has become a context for networking and headhunting in the corporate sphere. For a Gen Z, personal brand management starts a lot earlier and flows across multiple platforms.
Entertainment: It’s fun!
“Mindlessly browsing the internet is probably my favourite past time… Twitter. Facebook. I’m prevalent on YouTube and Tumbler as well… Instagram – Instagram is fun.” Mitch, b.1995
There is no doubt that for Gen Z, if something is going to hold your attention, there had better be an element of fun involved! Previous generations gathered around the television screen for family entertainment. However for Gen Z, social media platforms have opened up a world of alternative entertainment options.
With an infinite amount of content available online, social media platforms are increasingly helping users stay connected with what’s relevant to them by tracking online search patterns and providing link suggestions to similar content.
How does your generation use social media and other technology? Is it different or similar to the experiences of Generation Z?
To understand Generation Z better and help to unlock the potential of these Post-Millennials, take a look at the new book by Claire Madden, Hello Gen Z.