Imagen Insights’ Jay Richards on Gen Z and Their Relationships with Tech and Social Media

On this week's episode of The MadTech Podcast, Jay Richards, co-founder of Imagen Insights, joins ExchangeWire CEO Rachel Smith and staff writer Hannah Dillon for an in-depth discussion on Gen Z. In this podcast, Richards, Smith, and Dillon explore the impact of social media on Gen Z, emerging trends amongst the cohort, and their evolving relationship with technology.

Social media can have conflicting effects on Gen Z mental health

How can social media participants (including agencies, brands, and publishers) contribute to improving the experience that users have on these platforms?

Spending time on social media platforms can heighten negative feelings among Gen Z users, but it can also make some feel more empowered and connected. That’s according to the 2022 Global Gen Z Health Survey from McKinsey Health Institute, which assessed the health of 42,000 respondents across 26 countries. 

The study found that although Gen Z reported having negative experiences with social media more than any other age groups, more than half reported that these platforms provide avenues for self-expression and opportunities to make social connections. However, Gen Z respondents ranked themselves as the group with the worst mental health and, alongside Millennials, proved more likely to attribute the state of their mental wellbeing to social media. Yet technology can help resolve this issue, with more Gen Z respondents saying they use digital wellness apps and programs to improve their mental wellbeing.

Gen Z more motivated by recognition, success, and fun

Are you surprised by any of the report's findings?

A study has found that Gen Z are more motivated by success, pleasure, and wealth than other age groups. The BCW Age of Values 2023 report found that 44% of Gen Zers say that achievements — and others’ recognition of them — are very important to them, while 43% say that it is essential that they seek out fun experiences and activities. Similarly, around a third of Gen Z respondents want an exciting lifestyle and a similar proportion consider being rich highly important.

The responses, which were collected from December 2022 to April 2023, reflect a growing trend towards individualism, which may have been accelerated by the proliferation of social media, posits BCW’s chief strategy officer, Lisa Story. That said, the top three values across all age groups are benevolence, universalism, and security.

Tech literacy of Gen Z may be overestimated

Is education and/or training keeping up with technology’s rapid evolution, particularly within advertising and marketing? 

While Gen Z have grown up in the digital age, the cohort may be less capable with technology than many assume. This is due in part to the fact that formal education does not currently offer preparation for the digital jobs market – according to a study by Dell, 56% of Gen Zers have had minimal or zero digital skills education, while 37% say that they feel that their schools do not provide adequate lessons in this area. 
With Gen Z expected to account for more than a quarter of the world’s workforce by 2025, digital upskilling this age bracket will be essential. Online courses are helping to plug the gap, with some institutions partnering with them to bolster students’ tech education. With more tech employers reportedly valuing skills over traditional degrees, apprenticeships, bootcamps, and certifications could all be viable options for Gen Zers who are hoping to break into the industry.