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From astrology to digital detoxes, social overload is shifting Gen Z and Millennial behavior

by | Aug 1, 2019 | Public Relations

Through culture, entertainment, and brand intelligence filters, new research from social-first entertainment experiences firm Fullscreen explores how overindulgence in social and digital media has transformed our relationship with ourselves, other humans, and the world around us—while unearthing how brands can break through at a time when many of us are trying to break up with our screens.

Fullscreen, an Otter Media company, has released its inaugural Culture Report, taking a deep dive into cultural trends driven by the often overuse of social media seen among 18-34-year-olds.

Social media and digital culture are impacting all aspects of everyday life—from self-confidence to politics to dating—and not necessarily in a positive way. With just over half of this age group (51 percent) daydreaming about life without social media, it’s clear that the ever-increasing amount of screen time is leading to a serious social media hangover.

As consumers continue to separate themselves from their social media addictions and reset their digital relationships to show their true selves, brands must clearly define what they can offer to authentically align themselves with this new #unfiltered, #wellness-focused social landscape.

Social Media is Canceled

Well, not exactly—but the constant quest for likes and followers is starting to take its toll on self-worth and self-confidence. As consumers prioritize mental health and are decluttering their social feeds along with their houses, a la Marie Kondo, they are beginning to tune out what doesn’t make them feel good. Case in point: more than half (51 percent) have ‘canceled’ a friend and/or family member from their life. People are opening up on social media to show their authentic, real selves, and brands will need to follow suit to successfully connect with their audiences.

  • 83 percent feel that their mood is impacted by the number of likes, comments, shares they receive on social content
  • 54 percent think being constantly connected to their devices worsens their well-being
  • 51 percent agree that they often think about what life would be like without social media

Despite the negativity associated with social media for many, a digital detox can be difficult when one’s digital identity tends to eclipse the offline self.

  • 32 percent agree “If I took a break from social media, I would feel lost or like a part of me was missing”
  • 45 percent agree “I’m not sure who I would be in real life if I didn’t have social media”
  • 26 percent agree “I like my social media self more than I like my real self”

“We’re seeing a significant change in the way Gen Z and millennials are interacting on social,” said Maureen Polo, GM of the Brand Studio at Fullscreen, in a news release. “The still overly-curated #unfiltered posts are becoming a thing of the past, replaced with actual genuineness as users are eager to portray a glimpse of their real lives. Brands must be willing to ditch the heavily stylized content and bring the realness that audiences now crave.”

(Not) Feelin’ Myself

There are contradictions abound when it comes to social and digital advertising. Many brands have been evolving past the body positivity conversation to focus on body neutrality, which is centered on the whole self. But at the same time, curated online images from brands and influencers still constantly put edited and filtered photos front and center, leading to negative feelings and self-confidence issues.

  • Less than half (39 percent) are confident in their appearance—which is especially troubling when 41 percent of the same cohort believes that feeling attractive is a prerequisite to happiness
  • 41 percent agree “I wish there weren’t any photo-editing apps”
  • 43 percent agree marketing from beauty brands makes them feel worse about themselves.

Attack of the Zodiac

Mystical-driven culture–whether it be astrological or crystal in nature–is on the rise as younger generations are trying to make sense of the world and discover a belief system to help find their place in it. Mysticism is growing rapidly in its influence on everything from purchasing power to acceptance of different beliefs. Brands who engage through non-traditional belief systems, from shopping recommendations to music playlists to dating profiles, have seen success in capturing a new audience of star-lovers.

  • 43 percent would make a big life decision based on a horoscope/tarot card reading
  • 41 percent agree “People can believe in religion, spirituality, and occult practices all at the same time”
  • Over a quarter of millennials agree that “horoscopes and astrology influence my purchasing decisions”
  • 1 out of 3 agree “In this time of instability in the world, I turn to astrology to make sense of things” (39 percent)
  • 29 percent agree “I believe that astrology and horoscopes are rooted in science”
  • Over 1 in 3 would blame mercury in retrograde for negative things happening in their life

Hating on Dating (Apps)

Previous generations destigmatized meeting a romantic partner virtually through apps like Tinder and Bumble. However, as online dating took off, so did bad dating behavior (think: ghosting; breadcrumbing), leading to negative feelings about dating apps. Now, nearly half (48 percent) think that online dating is not good for people’s self-esteem. The majority of 18-34-year-olds are now going old school to meet a significant other, with 76 percent interested in going to an event meant for singles to meet other singles.

  • 61 percent would rather be single and leaving it up to fate than be single and swiping
  • 48 percent agree “Online dating is not good for people’s self-esteem”
  • 34 percent agree “I feel lonely after using dating apps”
  • 58 percent agree “I want to delete my dating apps, but I feel like I can’t because it will take me out of the dating pool”
  • 61 percent think it is realistic to find a partner IRL

“Brands must consider the implications as users redefine their relationships with social media, themselves, and those around them,” continued Polo. “The pendulum will swing back to the very reason why we came to social media, for real connection and community. This makes it absolutely necessary for brands to be honest in every connection and make a positive impact on the audience they are trying to reach. From presenting the same identity and tone online and off, to cultivating long-lasting relationships with creators, to helping consumers destress and feel good about themselves, brands have a huge opportunity to bring people together and build strong communities.”

The Fullscreen Culture Report was derived from a culmination of approaches including human analysis, social behaviors, proprietary generational research, and their always-on youth research panel. Trends include results from the 2019 Fullscreen Generational Report, featuring an online survey among a sample of nationally represented 1,500 13-38-year-olds, as well as Fullscreen’s panel of 3,000 Gen Zs and millennials (known as TBH).

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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