In an age of unparalleled connectivity, where social media platforms thrive – it’s perhaps most ironic that Generation Z, the first of the digital natives could be the loneliest generation of all time.
Research has found that people in the 16-24 age group are three times more likely to say they feel lonely than those in the 65-74 age group. Born into a world of rapid technological advancement and constant virtual interactions, Gen Z faces unique challenges in fostering genuine connections and combating the pervasive feeling of loneliness. The data also showed that people living in cities were more likely to feel lonely, with 17% of city dwellers saying they experienced chronic loneliness. But in a world with more than 7 billion people, where meeting new people is as simple as clicking a button, how are Gen Z so lonely?
An obvious factor could be our relationship with the internet. A 2017 study found that heavy social media users were three times more likely to feel socially isolated than casual users. We face constant exposure to carefully curated portrayals of others’ lives. This perpetuates a sense of inadequacy and fosters social comparison, as we measure ourselves against the idealized online personas of our peers. The virtual world can offer a facade of connection, yet it often fails to provide the depth and authenticity that meaningful relationships require.
Likes, comments, and followers have become virtual currencies, creating a distorted sense of validation and self-worth. The more time people spend on the Internet, the less time they spend communicating with other people. This constant exposure to highlight reels rather than the reality of everyday life can leave individuals feeling disconnected and lonely, despite having a large number of online connections.
Since the pandemic, people have even gotten busier. Being stuck inside our house for 2 years gave us a lot of free time to take on more responsibility – but as the world opened up, our responsibilities did not lessen. And it’s impacting us in more ways than one. Gen Z’s mental health is at its worst, and most are uncertain about their future.
And these facts become increasingly concerning when you consider that 75 per cent of the global workforce will be Millennials and Gen Z by 2030. Our heavy reliance on communicating digitally has also impacted our ability to navigate face-to-face interactions effectively. With Artificial Intelligence becoming more prominent, technological advances meant to make the world more connected might actually be making it easier for us to disconnect.