New Research into Gen Z’s Social Media Use Reveals Shocking Statistics

By  //  November 25, 2021

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Recent research commissioned by a leading virtual private network (VPN) company has revealed some surprising and troubling figures about Generation Z’s social media use. 

ExpressVPN’s survey on Gen Z users and social media found that a majority of teens and young adults have an unhealthy relationship with their social channels and are willing to trade online privacy for fame, yet most do not trust social media platforms.  

Respondents to the full survey, which covered 1,500 Gen Z users in the United States and an additional 1,500 users in both France and Germany, were asked questions about their online practices and how social media impacted their lives and emotional well-being. 

Key findings from the report

Of the US users surveyed, 100 percent had at least one social media account. YouTube was the most popular with 74 percent of respondents holding an account. The video-sharing platform was closely followed by Instagram at 72 percent, and Snapchat and TikTok, both at 65 percent.

The majority of respondents, 58 percent, also use Facebook and 49 percent have a Twitter account. Most users reported spending less than 15 minutes per day on these platforms, though, a sharp contrast to video content platforms YouTube and TikTok where around half of the respondents said they spent at least an hour daily. 

Fourteen percent of users said they spend upwards of five hours per day on YouTube and 11 percent spend the same amount of time on TikTok. Despite such heavy use, 61 percent of Gen Z users said they were concerned about social media addiction and 50 percent were envious of those with no social accounts.

When asked about the extent to which social media affected their mental health, over 80 percent of respondents reported that it impacted their happiness, self-esteem, self-image, anxiety, and loneliness — 47 percent had deleted a social post because it hadn’t received enough ‘likes.’

■ Lack of trust in social platforms was apparent with 28 percent of users saying they don’t trust any social media companies to protect their privacy and 67 percent indicating concerns their images would be used in facial recognition technologies. Accordingly, most Gen Zers use tools that allow them greater control such as disabling contact syncing and switching off ad personalization. 

The report also highlighted how many Gen Z users, 40 percent, had created fake Instagram profiles, with 17 percent noting they used a fake profile to monitor an ex-partner’s account. 

Although concerned about the reach of social media companies, 78 percent of respondents said they would trade personal information, such as their sexuality, ethnicity, and political views, in exchange for more social media fame

Generation Z, which the Pew Research Center defines as those born between 1997 and 2012, is the first to have grown up with widespread technology, the internet, and social media. As such, Gen Z’s attitudes toward social channels provide critical insights into how these platforms are shaping society. 

ExpressVPN’s research comes just a few months after Facebook Inc. whistleblower, Frances Haugen, revealed that the company knew yet did not disclose the level of damage Instagram was having on teenagers.