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Gen-Z and Social Media; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Article co-created in collaboration with Roxanne Darling, Virginie Glaenzer and Lori Schwebel

Pass the Mic Podcast Series is an unscripted group discussion born out of AcornOak’s belief in the power of many voices.

Each episode begins with one expert - an open-minded and passionate individual who has spent a great deal of time investigating and researching a certain topic. During our hour, a small group of 4 to 6 people explores complex and difficult concepts with curiosity, uncertain beliefs and the willingness to objectively listen and learn from the shared insights of others.

Our eight episode discusses the topic of social media with an attempt to answer the following question: How does Generation-Z experience the good, the bad, and the ugly of social media?

Starting the Conversation

As the podcast host, Virginie Glaenzer paved the way for this conversation led by Roxanne Darling who discusses how social media platforms have impacted positively and negatively the lives of GenZ.

Welcoming Our Guests

We were honored to welcome our panel of special guests eager to discuss social media, from their favorite sites to the best way to overcome and cope with online bullying.

Roxanne Darling, Serial entrepreneur and founder, Bare Feet Studios. Roxanne’s eclectic career includes hosting the YouTube sensation, “Beach Walks with Rox” which earned numerous awards and 2+ million downloads.

Alix Glaenzer, Freshman, University of Rhode Island. Currently undeclared, Alix is enjoying anthropology, psychology and history classes.

Dominique Thomas, Senior at Berkeley College.

Alyssa Carrow, Senior at Berkeley College. Aspiring copywriter and social media marketer. Founder of the company "Just A Carrot." a sticker and soon-to-be apparel brand.

Listen to the tour de table introduction of our participants.

Key Insights & Perspectives

This discussion was so fruitful! It was enlightening to hear from our panel their positive and the negative experiences using social media.

The Good

First Preference: Instagram is the Winner

We started the discussion by asking which social media sites are the panel’s favorite and why those sites matter to them.

The group agreed that Instagram provides a good experience and offers a way to build relationships with others. It’s a creative outlet to cultivate a business and can also serve as a wonderful personal photo album. Setting your account to “private” status offers protection from harm and still allows you to share meaningful and fun moments.

Listen to Alyssa sharing her experience with instagram.

Second Preference: Facebook has the “least bad” behaviors

When we discussed the social media platforms that encourage negative behaviors, Instagram and Snapchat seem to foster an environment where users pretend to have a perfect life by posting only positive and beautiful images.

Social media raises the challenge to express our authentic self and the difficult exercise of being honest with creating our true stories.

On the plus side, many use Facebook for family connections and conversations, without intentionally trying to build a personal brand. Curiously, these close family connections on Facebook offer respite and support when a person is feeling down, both from social media harassment and everyday life challenges.

The Bad

Inaccurate News Reporting & Loss of Privacy

Social media has become the source of news and information for many people including Generation Z, who do not rely on newspapers to gain awareness of what is going on in the world. However, they are well aware that none of the social media sites are giving accurate information and most lack reporting ‘due-diligence’ that once upon a time newspapers lauded themselves on.

Also, according to our panel, GenZers have accepted the fact that social media companies own much of their information and that their internet activity is being tracked.

As Alyssa shares, “I am well aware that the companies are probably doing shady things with our information - selling it. It came out recently that Zuckerberg was selling information without the consent of users. So unfortunately, in this age that we live in, our lives are on the internet and our information is essentially public domain.”

When It Goes from Bad to Worse

Social Media PTSD

When they experienced the dark side of social media, our panelists revealed the trauma can cause a form of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and bring the lingering effects of it.

PTSD was originally included in the DSM-III manual in 1980, for Vietnam vets who came back from the war, having flashbacks, sleep disorders, and emotional arousal. Online bullying has led to suicide and is now accepted to cause symptoms similar to PTSD in some people.

“Social media can help people target you.”

Listen to Alix sharing her stressful experience with social media.

Coping With Bullying

According to a Pew Research Center 2014 survey, 73% of adults have observed the harassment of others online, and 40% have themselves been targeted for harassment. Trolls most frequently target young adults (18-29), 65% of whom reported that they have been trolled. Young women face particular types of trolling, including stalking (26%) and sexual harassment (25%).

What is the best way to overcome and cope with online bullying when social media attacks can happen at any time and to anyone?

Listening to our panel, it became clear that building resilience in our personhood is key when coping with bullying.

Building Resilience on Social Media:

  1. Block the offenders.

  2. Tell your friends when it is happening, so they can support you.

  3. Make some channels private.

  4. Take a social media break for a few days or even weeks.

  5. Meet people IRL “in real life” to deepen the connections and avoid the harm and distraction of social media.

Individual Take-aways

As we came at the end of the hour, our group closed the discussion in the same way we started, with a tour de table. Each participant had the opportunity to reflect on what they heard and share their take-aways from the conversation.

Listen to the last 10 minutes of the episode.

Final Thoughts to Consider

The people of GenZ grew up with social media and have experienced various forms of online bullying at an early age. They have learned that being your authentic self requires them to build emotional strength.

In their struggle, this generation might have been gifted the freedom to be themselves with less conditioning and a lower desire to please others.

They are also well aware of their constant online tracking and more and more see the use of social media as a way to stay connected with people who are physically distant.

It would not be surprising to witness an upcoming trend that spurs new kindred communities as they are craving a more trusted environment.

All this leads to building a sense of personal resilience — which feeds back into the community like positive fertilizer. As a community tool, social media can grow the attributes and features that strengthen us rather than divide, harm, and weaken us.

If this short summary resonated with you, go to YouTube to view the entire discussion or listen on iTune, Spotify, Spreaker or SoundCloud.

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