Members of Generation Z report a willingness to make significant sacrifices for perceived success with their online profiles, despite concerns about safety, dependency and mental health, according to a recent survey.
This survey, commissioned by virtual private network (VPN) software and services provider ExpressVPN, adds to a number of recent reports on Gen Z's complex relationships with tech and security.
In fact, social media may be impacting young people more than other generations. As the recent survey of this younger demographic (ages 16 to 24) shows, roughly 80% or more said that social media directly impacts their happiness, self-esteem, self-image, anxiety, loneliness and depression.
Gen Z's attachment to social media
While older generations aren't insulated from online dependency, Gen Z seems to have a much deeper attachment to social media. In a separate survey commissioned by research organization Reboot Foundation, over half of respondents ages 18 to 78 said that social media at least "somewhat" contributed to their anxiety and depression, though 70% said they wouldn’t permanently delete their social media accounts for less than $10,000.
Here's what Gen Z says:
- 20% would need $1 million in exchange for permanently deleting their most used social media account
- 13% say that no amount of money would be enough to delete their most used account
But despite 61% saying they're concerned about social media addiction, Gen Z may be resorting to risky behavior in exchange for more exposure: A third of respondents reported having purchased followers on social media. And while half of them acknowledged it was likely their new followers would be bots (50%), they said the security risk is worth the possibility of getting a verified profile (40%), convincing followers they have more friends (38%) and/or the prospect of attracting brand collaborations (36%).
Sharing info seems to trump privacy concerns
This generation does acknowledge that there are risks involved with online exposure. While over 60% use two-factor authentication as a security measure, the majority use privacy settings not for the purpose of preventing cyber crimes, but in order to prevent people they know from seeing their online activities and posts, including family members, former partners and future employers.
While 66% are wary of oversharing their personal info on social media (as well as 28% saying they don't trust any platform to protect their privacy), Gen Zers still say they would offer up more information online for potential benefits — in fact, 78% would exchange it for social media fame (78%).
Many respondents also say they would offer their date of birth if requested by a social media platform (63%), share their location if they could receive more followers (43%) or exchange their personal data for early access to new social media features (40%). Some are even willing to share data with a third party to gain a verified account (27%).
To keep social media accounts safe, Express VPN recommends a number of security measures including turning off geotagging, using an alphanumeric-mix of at least 12 characters for passwords and turning off nonessential permissions like camera and microphone access.
Methodology: This survey was commissioned in October 2021 by ExpressVPN, working with online sampling service Pollfish. The sample included 1,500 U.S. respondents, 1,500 French respondents and 1,500 German respondents, all aged 16 to 24.