Digital Era Dilemma

Gen Z's Embrace of Digital Media and the Impact of Replacing In-Person Interaction.

Digital Era Dilemma: Gen Z's Embrace of Digital Media and the Impact of Replacing In-Person Interaction

Generation Z, also known as the digital natives, are the first generation to have grown up entirely in the digital age, with access to digital media at their fingertips. While this has brought about numerous benefits, such as access to infinite amounts of information and the ability to connect with people all over the world, it also has created some detrimental effects both socially and neurologically. Gen Z must strike a balance between the use of digital media and face-to-face interactions to ensure they fully benefit from the advantages while avoiding the negative effects. Digital communication was originally designed as a supplement to human interactions, not to replace them entirely. Digital connection provides us with a plethora of choices for interaction but even with today’s advanced technology, it cannot replicate the physical touch, nuanced communication, multi-sensory experiences, empathy, and emotional support that come with real human contact.

According to a report released in April, by our client partner Deloitte, Gen Z and Millennials are the generations embracing digital media wholly, as both a means of interaction and commerce. Gen Z, however, has the highest percentage of those who are utilizing digital interaction in place of IRL (In Real Life) instances. It is widely accepted that communication follows the 7-38-55 rule, and across the board experts agree 70-98% of all communication is non-verbal. Overall, Gen Z views online experiences as meaningful replacements for in-person experiences, with 50% agreeing compared to only 19% of other generations. This part of the digital puzzle is concerning and is why it’s important Gen Z learns how to balance their online life within person, face to face, encounters. Physical and emotional contact with other humans is crucial for an extensive list of physical and mental health reasons.

The benefits of embracing digital media are endless and Gen Z is keenly aware of them all. Utilizing digital and social media for everything from event invitations to concerts, gaming to shopping, to sharing photos of… well, just about everything, is their modus operandi. Here are a few of the most recognized advantages to being a Digital Native:  

1. Access to information: Digital media provides Gen Z with instant access to a vast amount of information on various subjects. They can explore educational resources, research topics of interest and stay updated on current events with just a few clicks.

2. Global connectivity: Digital media enables Gen Z to connect with people from diverse cultures, countries, and backgrounds. They can engage in discussions, collaborate on projects and gain diverse perspectives from individuals all around the world, broadening their understanding and knowledge.

3. Enhanced communication: Digital media platforms such as social media, messaging apps, and video conferencing tools offer convenient and efficient ways for Gen Z to communicate with their peers, friends, and family. They can stay connected regardless of geographical distances and easily share thoughts, ideas and experiences.

4. Creative expression: Digital media platforms provide Gen Z with outlets for creative expression. They can highlight their talents through videos, artwork, photography, writing, and other forms of digital content. Social media platforms also allow them to gain recognition, build an audience and explore their passions.

5. Career, educational and entrepreneurial opportunities: Digital media has opened avenues for Gen Z to explore and pursue various ways to get their education, research different career paths and a multitude of entrepreneurial ventures. They can take classes, showcase their skills, network with professionals, find job opportunities or even start their own businesses through online platforms.

6. Personal growth and self-expression: Digital media allows Gen Z to explore their identities, interests, and personal growth. They can find communities and spaces where they feel understood, share their experiences, seek support and express their authentic selves without fear of judgment.

7. Innovation and technological literacy: Growing up in the digital age, Gen Z has become technologically literate and adapted to the rapid advancements in digital tools and platforms. They can learn to navigate new technologies, stay updated on emerging trends, and leverage these skills for future career prospects.

8. Entertainment and leisure: Digital media provides Gen Z with a wide array of entertainment options, including streaming services, online gaming, and user-generated content platforms. They can enjoy a variety of multimedia content, engage in interactive experiences and connect with communities centered around shared interests.

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It is important to note that while digital media offers numerous benefits, moderation, digital literacy and maintaining a healthy balance between online and offline experiences are essential for Gen Z's overall well-being and development. Some of the adverse effects of digital media overload can include:

1. Social isolation and shortened attention span: While it is possible to have many online connections, they do not provide the same level of emotional support as human connection and can lead to feelings of isolation. Additionally, the constant barrage of information on digital media has made it difficult for Gen Z to focus for extended periods, shortening their attention span which causes difficulties retaining information.

2. Limited sensory experiences: Human interaction involves multiple senses, including sight, smell and hearing. When Gen Z only engages in digital contact the visual and auditory senses are the sole senses being engaged, limiting their experiences, eventually making in person human interaction uncomfortable for them.

3. Reduced empathy and Cyberbullying: When communication is limited to text or emojis, it can be challenging to understand the emotional state of the other person, leading to a lack of empathy. Cyberbullying is also a growing concern for Gen Z as it is easier to hide behind a screen and attack others anonymously.

4. Inability to read body language and tone: Digital communication lacks the nuance of face-to-face interactions, making it difficult to read body language and tone accurately creating more opportunities for Gen Z to experience misunderstandings and misinterpretations, leading to confusion and conflict.

5. Inefficient regulation of the nervous system: Human connection helps regulate the nervous system by promoting the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding and reduces stress. This hormone is released during physical touch, such as hugging, holding hands or even a simple pat on the back.

6. Increased anxiety and depression: Social isolation has been linked to increased risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and Gen Z experiences these in far greater numbers than any other generation. Human connection can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression by supplying emotional support, validation and a sense of belonging.

7. Diminished cognitive function: Lack of in-person social interaction has been linked to the reduction of cognitive function, including memory, attention and problem-solving skills. Engaging in conversations and taking part in social activities can help Gen Z promote mental stimulation and cognitive growth.

8. Weakened immune system: Reduced amounts of human connection can weaken the immune system, increasing Gen Z’s stress and restlessness. Studies have shown that people with strong social connections have better immune function and are less susceptible to diseases.

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While we are not all members of Gen Z, as a 100% virtual company The Phoenix uses digital media and all its numerous benefits daily with a unique caveat- a core policy focused on work-life balance. Through innovative systems, in place by design, our team can reap the benefits of a flexible digitally based career and maintain our life off the grid outside of work. The digital world has allowed The Phoenix to create a cutting-edge work environment where our policies keep it team friendly. Simply knowing we have flexibility around where we work for the day is an automatic stress reliever, right out of the gate. The same holds true for Gen Z. They have found many benefits in embracing digital media, giving them access to the world, literally, at the click of a button. However, it is crucial for Gen Z to recognize the importance of finding a balance between their online and in-person activities. By striking this balance, they can fully enjoy the advantages of digital media while also nurturing their social skills, emotional well-being and physical health. Through embracing and balancing the digital world with real-world experiences, Gen Z can thrive while living their #BestLife.