Gen Z: Instant Feedback and Pressure in a Connected World

If practice makes perfect, how does one achieve perfection when you only have one shot at it? And is this at all realistic? That’s what Generation Z is facing in our connected world. And a question companies need to ask themselves is: How does Gen Z’s challenge align with future innovation, design and development projects?

In an age of instant message and immediate sharing there is no margin for error. Yet Gen Z, with their quick-on-the-click thinking, are actually robbed of the opportunity to make mistakes, test the waters, or even stumble before they fall. Understanding the challenges faced by this new breed of consumer can help innovators design smarter, more effective solutions.

Comedy in a Connected World

Case in point, a number of high-profile comedians including Chris Rock and Patton Oswalt, both of whom know the benefits of trial and error, have lamented the difficulty of developing new jokes in the era of mobile phones and instant sharing. Their argument is that it’s hard for comics – especially the better-known ones – to test out new material and develop jokes when the audience can record and/or Tweet out whatever bit they’re currently working on. Once something’s online, the original speaker can’t ever take it back, explain the context or remind people that it was only a joke-in-progress. It’s gotten so frustrating that Dave Chappelle actually banned the use of cellphones during his sets at last year’s Oddball Comedy Festival.

This problem is obviously not unique to comedy. Any creative endeavor – art, design or improvisation – necessarily risks missing the mark. But in a world where off-hand comments develop meaning far beyond themselves, it has become harder to fail safely (let alone often). All this connectivity has put us in a position where much of what we put out in front of others is judged and scrutinized as if it were a finished, final product. And this is the environment Gen Z is growing up in. They experience this every day in everything they do.

However, these teens are just as vulnerable as previous generations. Gen Z-ers exhibit new insecurities less familiar to those who have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to falter.

The Impact on Generation Z

As we learned in our recent Generation Z study, members of Gen Z, born into our high-stakes social media age, feel this pressure most acutely. And these teenagers look to share content that is polished, optimistic and engaging (but not too controversial!). As one participant, Sneha, told us: “We filter out whatever flaws we may have to create the ideal image.”

In such a connected world, teens are constantly trying to please others. And they worry that any online misstep could follow them back to the real world.

Comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle may struggle to practice their new jokes, but they have years of accomplishments and professional reputations to fall back on. If Gen Z-ers are trying to curate unrealistically flawless online representations of themselves, where can they go to test out ideas-in-progress, experience new things, reveal their vulnerabilities, absorb feedback and grow?

Or, to put it another way: How does someone come of age in 2015 without a safe space to “practice new material”?

Teenage members of Generation Z are still forming their personal and professional identities in an angst-filled and overwhelmingly digital age. While they can’t simply decide to “ban cellphones in the audience”, they’re looking for safer places to “work out their own material”. Whether these forums exist mostly offline or online under the cloak of anonymity, teens are looking to develop their unique stories without having to meticulously curate, and be judged, on a specific image. Understanding the dynamics of this personal struggle is a critical first step to making sense of, and eventually designing for, this newest generation.


Click here to check out our full report on Generation Z.

Jeremy Finch

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Jeremy Finch