FLAME in the news | June 15, 2021

Generation Z seems to be using social media as a means of communicating their own identity.

By Sairaj Patki,

Generation Z or Digital Natives, refers to those people born after 1995, who were surrounded by the Internet and ICT technology (Dunas & Vartanov, 2020). This generational cohort is known to be perpetually connected to the internet. Every stage of technological advancement throughout human history has impacted the generation of users, but the graph of recent advancements has been steep. Thus, we have the unique opportunity to observe intergenerational patterns of human-technology interaction as they unfold before us in the same decade. Given that social gatherings and face-to-face interactions were significantly reduced during the pandemic, dependence on social media can be expected to have increased several times.

Generation Z's drive to have a unique identity

A special characteristic of generation-specific human-technology interaction is related to the purpose of using social media. Generation Z seems to be using social media as a means of communicating their own identity. A comparison of social media usage across the generation of users showed that Gen Z members were more likely to create their own individualized identities on social media platforms (Fietkiewicz et al., 2016) and also showed great interest and passion for creating digital content. (Hernandez-de-Menendez et al., 2020). Digital natives present themselves as active controllers of their lives, increasingly seeking creative media and inclining to create and share content as a means of self-expression. They are individuals who do not want to be limited by the harsh existing social structures (Fietkiewicz et al., 2016). As creators, they seek to be unique, stand out from the digital crowd, and create their own identity.

Conformity influences Generation Z's quest for identity

While the need to establish a unique identity for themselves on the digital platform appears to be driving social media usage patterns, equally strong pressure to conform to the group appears to be constantly driving their choices. Be it a display image (popularly known as the short form - DP), a Bitmoji, or a cover photo, digital natives spend time and effort to personalize their identities according to the requirements of the virtual space occupied by their peers and others. digital natives. A survey by Ziba Design revealed that two-thirds of Gen Z members present multiple identities in the online space, which are different from their actual identity. The fact that these people personalize their own image directly or indirectly with publications on social networks shows the immense role that social networks play in influencing and, to some extent, determining the perception of members of their own identities and of the from others (Seemiller & Grace, 2018). Another study showed that when adolescent participants received a large number of likes on their own photos uploaded to social media, reward centers in the brain showed high activity on functional MRI scans. The study also highlighted the power of conformity and peer influence on such social media sites,

The potential of contemporary digital media to influence the socialization or self-realization needs of the generation is something that differentiates them from traditional media (Dunas & Vartanov, 2020). This could be attributed to the large amount of time that people of this generation dedicate exclusively to social media. Previous generations were also exposed and influenced by the media, but to media that were less widespread and were also exposed to a variety of other real-life social influences. Online digital technology is paradoxically promoting both “human interdependence and individual dependence” (Manago, 2015, p.1), offering constant human contact even in remote settings and reinforcing acts of self-promotion.

(The author is Assistant Professor (Psychology), FLAME University. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online).