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The influence of Gen Z and their self-expression grows stronger


A generation of TikTok users is about to disrupt all industries as per reports (INL Stock Image)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, January 12, 2024

Gen Z is increasingly important in many nations as its numbers and influence grow. A key factor in the importance of Gen Z is its growing financial power. History’s biggest-ever transfer of wealth and power is underway as the so-called ‘boomers’ retire, and the younger cohorts take over with very different experiences, assumptions, habits, and values.

The TikTok generation may be coming of age at a tumultuous time, but as its sphere of influence increases, it is set to disrupt every industry, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. The report predicts that up to $8.6 trillion in assets will be transferred to younger generations within the next 10 years, and it is now more than ever that we need to understand how this generation thinks and functions.

Mike Orme, Consultant, Thematic Intelligence team at GlobalData, comments: “The troubled and singular TikTok generation, Gen Z, is coming of age in an increasingly disrupted world. Gen Z has very different values and habits compared to the generations currently in charge and faces far worse economic prospects than its parents. Intergenerational tension is rising in the developed world as populations shrink and age. The urbanized youth cohort in China is radically out of sync with the underlying Confucian culture and family-based tradition. This presents a major challenge to President Xi’s regime, especially as over 20% of young graduates are unemployed or underemployed.”

Influencer culture

Transcending national boundaries, Gen Z has a large impact on the digital space, informing online trends and being greatly influenced by them. While many generations use social media, it is Gen Z’s native domain. In using social media, Gen Z interacts with online influencers daily. With influencer culture comes the influencer advertising industry that enables millions to earn six-figure salaries from content creation.

The dependence on the digital world and the need to tie it to the daily realities of the physical world is a notable trend among Gen-Zers. Gen Z demands immersive experiences in shopping, working, schooling, and entertainment. The movement towards an increasingly interconnected world will not slow down and is especially demanded by this digital-first generation.

Martina Raveni, Associate Analyst, Thematic Intelligence team at GlobalData said, “Technology is at the heart of entertainment for Gen Z, and companies that want to win over Gen Z cannot ignore the virtual world and all its possibilities. Esports and the metaverse are gaining popularity among Gen Z. Indeed, video games like FortniteMinecraft, and Among Us are especially popular with Gen Z, as is the practice of streaming and watching gaming content on platforms like Twitch and YouTube. This popularity of gaming among Gen Z will naturally transition into metaverse applications as Gen Z demands an increased connection between their physical and virtual worlds. Furthermore, Gen Z gamers consider the virtual world a place to escape the real world and freely be themselves, experiment with their identities, and create new relationships.”

Tik Tok Generation

This generation’s over-dependence on technology is viewed as a problematic trend, with the perception largely focusing on how shallow their interactions and experiences are becoming, and how disconnected they are from reality.

But Indian Newslink asked some of the Gen Z youth what they feel about being the Tik-Tok generation with the ‘attention span of less than a minute’ and some of the key points they highlighted are:

Visual Communication

TikTok and more recently YouTube’s format of short, engaging videos has popularised concise and visually appealing communication. Youth often express themselves through creative, quick video content rather than traditional text-based communication.

Hamilton-based youth Ashna M said, “We find visual content a lot more faster and effective and it is a form of expression that comes more naturally to us. On Snapchat, we share an image with our friends rather than writing a text. It is just an evolution just like how people moved from formal letters to text messages in the first place.”

This is validated by Google’s internal data first reported by TechCrunch which said, “ Nearly 40% of Gen Z prefers searching on TikTok and Instagram over Google Search and Maps.”

Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan, who runs Google’s Knowledge & Information organisation said, “We keep learning, over and over again, that new internet users don’t have the expectations and the mindset that we have become accustomed to.” Raghavan said, adding, “The queries they ask are completely different.”

These users don’t tend to type in keywords but rather look to discover content in new, more immersive ways, he said.

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they are looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

The use of emojis and memes has also become a common language among teens on these platforms. It adds a layer of humour and expression to their communication that goes beyond traditional text.

Creativity and Self-Expression

With User-Generated Content being the focal point of these apps, the platforms encourage users to create and share their content, fostering a sense of creativity and self-expression. Teens use various tools like filters, effects, and editing features to enhance their content and showcase their individuality.

Living in Bengaluru, India, 25-year-old Sakshi B agrees. She said, “It is easier to express your thoughts through visuals. By adding the right music, or editing it in a  certain way, the content stands out and your message reaches out to a wider number of people. The world has become a big community where content is accessible to all those who share a similar line of thought.”

TikTok, in particular, has become a trendsetter, influencing popular culture and mainstream media. Trends originating on these platforms often make their way into other forms of entertainment, shaping fashion, music, and overall teen culture.

Community Building

Participating in challenges and using specific hashtags helps the youth connect with others who share similar interests. It creates a sense of community and allows for the exploration of shared passions, contributing to a feeling of belonging.

Youth today seamlessly develops Digital literacy and skill development along with content creation skills, video editing, storytelling, and creative content production. These skills can be valuable for personal development and potential future career opportunities.

Social media platforms serve as platforms for awareness and activism. Teens use these platforms to share information about social issues, engage in discussions, and promote positive change.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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