Gen Z trading privacy for social media fame affecting resilience and mental health in America?

Generation Z or Zoomer is a nickname referring to individuals who were born in the late 1990s through the early 2000s. They are the group born into technology who often establish their worth and sense of belonging based on social media sharing with virtual communities and networks. 

A recent survey by ExpressVPN talks about the idea that Generation Z students should be assessed with regard to their resilience in certain situations and points out that

Undergraduate students are increasingly made up of Generation Z, which is defined as individuals born between 1995 and 2010 (Seemiller & Grace, 2017) who present different attitudes, expectations, strengths, and weaknesses from previous generations (Seemiller & Grace, 2016; Shatto & Erwin, 2016). Generation Z students have fixed ideation of their self-worth influenced by the self-esteem movement (Dweck, 2015). In addition, Generation Z students are associated with higher narcissism, overconfidence, aversion to negative events, and a focus on praises and high grades (Twenge, 2013). These students are thought to be “bubble-wrapped” due to helicopter parenting (Talmon, 2019), which may lead to poor academic or career outcome (Bradley-Geist & Olson-Buchanan, 2014). Given that resilience is proposed to be developed through exposure to adversity (Luecken & Gress, 2009), Generation Z students have potentially lesser resilience owing to the lack of exposure to adversity due to helicopter parenting and their general aversion to risk and negative events. Hence, exploring the concept of resilience among these group of students from different university faculties is essential.”

Generation Z Survey by Express VPN

The absence of privacy, although of small concern to many individuals in Gen Z, is something that they have given up to increase the number of followers on social media accounts that could potentially expand or diminish their: psyche, self and fiscal worth, opportunity to expand valuable networks, and influence over virtual peers.  Digital media is designed to grab data and utilize algorithms to reveal content to users based on past searches and active user time.  Because social media utilizes a platform that occurs in real time, it can be damaging to users who are not “thinking before acting out” online, allowing a plethora of people or agencies to identify them and subsequently group them under a certain classification that may be detrimental to themselves or others at some future point in time. 

Large scale audience.

The massive audiences to be had can catapult an influencer’s success, but the lack of privacy may negatively impact another sector of their life, or lifestyle.  Gen Z users understand the risks of online exposure and over 60% use a two-factor authentication for security, but most utilize security to block individuals they already know from viewing their online activities and not because they are concerned about cybercrimes.  A recent Value Penguin article noted that 78% of Gen Zers would easily give up their privacy for social media fame.  

Influencer success.

As with any individual success, the originator of a social media account has to be driven by an idea or product they can share with an audience that will validate its worth and sometimes this can create a social media celebrity.  In this context, limited privacy gives the originator a broader audience or following that can expand their product or influence upon a certain target group.  While this may have a positive impact on a few, it has increased negative effects to many Gen Z social media account users. Sometimes the access and previous expanded use of technology has driven Gen Z users to significant financial success as well as celebrity.  Many have taken their favorite pastimes and technology interests and created web-based fiscal opportunities of growth leading to a valid business structure and early financial independence.  Due to world events, the individuals that make up Gen Z are seemingly mature in some aspects of life, but are lacking in social interaction skills in many cases due to structured playdates, overarching parenting, video games, and use of a platform where they are free to express their opinions from afar, making them seem a bit more self-centered and less aware of others’ feelings.  A personal cost/benefit analysis should be considered for individuals who will risk their privacy for a chance at social media celebrity.  

Negative effects of social media.

Gen Z users should be aware of some of the negative impacts caused by overuse of social media.  They can exhibit many signs of mental illness that are exacerbated, or created by the use of social media.  Some of the more common negative effects include feelings of anxiety when online or worrying about what they are missing when offline, difficulty being present in real-life interactions as they are using their phones while in the company of others, difficulty sleeping, and joint pains in the fingers and hands from overuse.  Negative thoughts should be addressed through self-care through physical activity, music, meditation, or other activities that keep Gen Z individuals involved in the real world, and limiting social media exposure and tech time for certain periods of a day, week, or other set timeframe.   

Increase in negative health impacts and suicide.     

Generation Z Study by Express VPN

Cigna research indicates Gen Z as the loneliest generation and the mental illness crisis continues. In 2017, 13% of teens reported having experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year, Pew Research Center reported. Social media might be fueling the increase in mental illness, as Gen Z is the first truly digital generationPew Research Center found 45% of teens aged 13 to 17 said they use the internet “almost constantly.” Over-use of social media can cause loneliness, depression, and anxiety, the Anxiety and1 Depression Association of America reported.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the suicide rate for people aged 10-24 increased by 56% from 2007-2017.   

Importance of privacy.

Privacy settings that are used in an appropriate manner may have some positive impact on recent negative data associating online bullying, stalking and negative feedback in conversations to increase loneliness, depression, and thoughts of suicide as Gen Z individuals may be dependent on their virtual communities.  All individuals utilizing social media accounts should be aware of the things they put  out into cyberspace and expect a positive or negative return based on that information.  Social media users need to make certain they balance their need for exposure with a conservative desire for self-preservation.     


Generation Z undergraduate students’ resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study (

CDC: the Suicide Rate for Young People Rose 56% This Decade (

Michel Raheb
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