Generation Z (Gen Z) is the only generation that reported declining use of social media in recent years after constant pivots by apps, such as Instagram, eroded younger users’ trust.
Data published by Pew Research Center shows that users between 18 and 25 years old are the only age group to see a decrease in social media use since 2019. And according to a recent consumer survey by Piper Sandler, Generation Z reported less use of every social app, except for TikTok.
Axios reports that the changing social online habits and preferences of Generation Z are dramatically reshaping the internet.
This demographic, many of whom have never known life without unlimited access to the internet, has become increasingly disillusioned with the social media apps they have grown up with. The toxic hierarchies created by decades of public “like” counts as well as a culture of clickbait posts have left Generation Z disenchanted with social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
According to Axios, the never-ending app changes by tech behemoths, such as Meta, have worn on Generation Z. The success of TikTok has led most of these long-standing social media apps to recreate themselves in its image and that business decision is not lost on this demographic.
The lure of TikTok to Generation Z is its algorithm, which keeps users coming back for material it knows they like but also regularly tests out new kinds of videos. This generation prefers that to the way big social networks like Instagram and Facebook keep doubling down on the kinds of content they know a user likes.
All these factors have led Generation Z to reject the social networking platforms they have always known. Instead, younger users network across an array of smaller apps, each of which serves a distinct function: Twitch for live-streaming and gaming, Discord for private chat groups, BeReal for spontaneous photo updates, or Poparazzi for candid photos of friends.
In a world where people are more concerned about online privacy and public interactions are more scrutinized than ever, younger users have also become much more deliberate about how they present themselves online, forcing social giants to become far less social. “Stories,” or ephemeral posts, have been adopted by nearly every social media company in the last few years. Today, the option to share content with just a small handful of close friends is most platforms’ default.
As a result, Axios notes that many of the biggest tech firms have attempted to distance themselves from the toxicity of social media. TikTok says it’s an “entertainment platform.” Snapchat calls itself a “camera company.” BeReal says it’s “not another social network.” Meta says it’s a “metaverse” company.
Generation Z is also changing the online landscape by challenging the search tools that have long dominated the internet. A Google Exec recently noted that 40% of now 18 to 24-year-old users now turn to apps like Instagram and TikTok instead of Google Search or Maps to discover new places or search for information. As such social media apps will increasingly focus on being the first stop on younger people’s path to discovery on the internet.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.