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How Social Media Dictates Happiness for Generations After Millennials: Gen Z

A single comment on Instagram has more sway over teenagers’ lives than you may think

iGen, the generation after Millennials, cannot remember a time before social media. In fact, social media is not media at all to iGen (also known as Gen Z or Centennials) but, rather, the medium for connecting, learning, showing off, expressing oneself, debating, dating and so much more. Social media connects iGen to the world around them and connects the world to iGen.

Social media dictates happiness - white paper

Given that social media is the channel where iGen connects, forges relationships, learns and documents every aspect of their lives, it’s no surprise that social media plays a large role in determining iGen’s happiness, self-esteem and well being.

“Tens of millions of iGen say social media determines their happiness, well-being and self-esteem,” says Jason Dorsey, iGen expert and Chief Experience Officer at The Center for Generational Kinetics. “If you think social media is important to iGen now, just wait another five years.”

As part of our landmark national study on iGen, the Center dove into the world of social media to explore how iGen views social media, how iGen’s views compare to those of other generations, and what iGen thinks about social media’s impact on their own lives.

The study found that forty-two percent of iGen, more than any other generation, says social media affects how people see you. In fact, the study found that iGen is twice as likely as Baby Boomers to say that social media affects how people see you and scores 5 percentage points higher than even Millennials, who were the pioneers of social media.

Interestingly, the study found a significant gap between how Millennials and iGen believe social media affects their well being. Forty-two percent of iGen say that social media affects how you feel about yourself. Perhaps this is due to the fact that iGen’s entire life has been featured on social media—whether it was their Gen X and Millennial parents posting about them or iGen themselves literally growing up on their preferred social media platform.

Going further, 39% of iGen reports that social media affects your self-esteem. This is crucial for teachers and parents to know: your students’ and children’s core happiness could come from, or be smashed by, something posted online. 

But it doesn’t stop there. The “real world” is increasing converging with social media, with job-hunting apps becoming more prevalent and specifically targeting older members of iGen. In fact, 33% of both iGen and Millennials believes social media can affect your job prospects.

Even dating is getting the social media treatment. Dating-specific apps aside, twenty-seven percent of iGen says that social media affects your dating prospects. This is more than any other generation in the national study, and four times as high as Baby Boomers and double the response of Generation X! With that in mind, a “like” on an Instagram selfie could mean so much more.

It will be most interesting to see how iGen’s relationship with social media evolves as they transition into adulthood. Will social media become the through-line that connects every area of their lives forever, or will iGen choose to limit or change what they post on social media as they get older?

As iGen grows, giving more weight to social media and its capacity to influence personal lives, it is likely that this trend will spread not only to the younger members of iGen but also to older generations. It may not be long before Grandma finds more of her happiness, self-esteem, and perhaps her new dating prospects, affected by social media.

See the best findings from the iGen and technology here.

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