Creativity Gives Gen Z A “Release Valve” From Social Media Pressure

By: Julie Inouye

As the first generation to be born with a digital footprint that they didn’t create themselves, Gen Z are in many ways better prepared than any other generation to manage their way through social media. They’re re-writing the rules as they go, finding safe spaces for creative expression and prioritizing self-care as part of their digital routine.

We asked* this generation, which makes up 75% of VSCO users, how social media is shaping the way they live, feel and express themselves. They let us in on the challenges of navigating “compare culture,” where likes and comments can hold just as much significance as face-to-face interactions, and how creativity helps quiet everything down. 

Compare Culture

96% of Gen Z recognize the importance of mental health and the detrimental effects social media has on it.

There are unwritten rules about how Gen Z “should” present themselves online and 73% have compared themselves to others in a way that negatively impacted their mood. As part of this compare culture, their profiles need to be delicately curated to stand out.

It causes 82% of Gen Z to hold back from posting because of a fear of what others might think.

55% worried about their follower count

Social Stress

Social media does make me insecure because what I’ve realized is that people who don’t know me only know what I leave behind online... and people often make assumptions and judgements based on what others post before they meet them in real life. - Jennifer, 19

Teens told us that judgement from social media, makes them feel a wide range of negative emotions, including insecurity (80%), anxiety (60%), stress (58%), frustration (50%) and depression (35%).

I think that it can start to build up over time if you’re already feeling insecure about yourself and what you’re accomplishing. Then you go on social media and you see everyone else doing great things. I think it can kind of build up and have a snowball effect on your mental health. - Kiah, 18

The Creative Escape

I use social media as a form of expressing myself. A lot of people can capture an image differently, and so it sort of shows a different outlook. It gives everyone a different way of expressing themselves. - Shelina, 19

Social media has its pitfalls, but it’s also an important outlet for creativity, self-expression and community. 83% of Gen Z believe that creativity has a positive effect on their mood and productivity -- more than half (56%) of them said they even incorporate creativity into their self-care routines. Over one third (38%) say editing photos is a creative outlet for them.

I use [VSCO] in a way where I don’t have to be stressed about keeping a certain amount of followers or keeping a certain theme, because it’s more of a personal journal for me. There’s no numerical scale of likes or views or anything. - Shelina, 19

Creativity is a language that is well understood by Gen Z. They prioritize creative expression and creating for themselves, as a key part of their digital routines -- 77% of Gen Z say they use VSCO for themselves more than prioritizing what others think. 79% told us editing photos on VSCO is a form of creative expression rather than a place to present themselves in a curated fashion.

85% reported they never or rarely have felt pressured or judged on VSCO

I definitely see more creative risks [on VSCO]. On Instagram, people are often just putting out what they know others are into and others like to see. Whereas VSCO, because you can post so many photos...I think you can take more risks, because ultimately, you’re not gonna have all your friends focusing on this one photo. - Sara, 19

A Safe Space for Self-Expression

Mental health is not a topic that is taboo for Gen Z. When asked to describe mental health, they use specific terms like “stress,” “anxiety,” and “insecurity” to explain what it means to them personally vs. “mental health” as a whole. They also have a strong understanding of the negative effects that come with being active on social media, but prioritize self-care and creative expression as a key part of their digital lives. 

Our community tells us every day that VSCO is a safe space where they can be themselves and express who they really are. They are able to do this without judgement and without the worry of how many likes and comments they get or how many followers they have. No matter where you are in your creative journey, VSCO remains a place where you can share your creative process and be inspired by others to keep creating. 

* This study was done in partnership with JUV Consulting, a marketing consultancy founded by a collective of students, and staffed entirely by a team aged 14 to 23. The survey was conducted among a sample of 394 people in the U.S., aged 14-24, from August 29 to September 1, 2019.

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