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Gen Z forces social media to evolve

Gen-Z-Facebook-Instagram-TikTok-Discord-BeReal-Thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

Gen Z forces social media to evolve

 

The Future. Gen Z is revealing itself to have a different relationship with social media than the generations before it, opting for a more fragmented ecosystem where particular apps are used for very specific purposes, conversations are kept more private, and creators are allowed to rule the roost of the biggest players. Having grown up in the height of the social media era, Gen Z may be the first generation to fully realize that being too online has more pitfalls than benefits.

Goodbye to everything
Axios reports that Gen Z may be getting over social media.

  • According to Pew, Gen Z is the only generation that reported a decline in social media use, using every platform less… except for TikTok.
  • Which is why every major platform is trying to transform into TikTok… but Gen Z actually doesn’t like that, as evidenced by the supportive response it had to Kylie Jenner criticizing Instagram for trying to copy it.
  • Instead, Gen Z users are using platforms for hyper-specific purposes — TikTok for entertainment, Twitch for live-streaming, Discord for chatting, and BeReal for what Instagram used to be.

This paradigm shift can be viewed as the sunset of the “everything app,” which was best personified by Facebook over the last decade — a one-stop-shop to connect with friends, join groups, post photos, etc. To Gen Z, no one app should have all that power.

Antisocial socials
The legacy social platforms can feel the ground shifting under their feet, so they’re actively trying to rebrand themselves as something that’s not social media (and all the loaded, controversial associations it comes with, like echo chambers and clickbait). Snap says it’s now a “camera company.” Facebook rebranded as Meta to become a “metaverse company.” And, again, TikTok says it’s just all about entertainment.

But maybe it’s also that the whole idea of being online has changed. In a world where every post can be scrutinized, Gen Z may just have less tolerance for falling into the traps of older generations. So, they use the bigger apps to keep tabs on their favorite creators and use those smaller, niché apps (ones that focus on privacy or posts that disappear) as the primary way to connect with close friends and like-minded strangers.

Who are the ones that Gen Z leaves out of the equation? Casual acquaintances — the very group that juiced up Facebook friend counts for Millennial bragging rights circa 2010.

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