Their Strange Addiction: How Gen Z Uses Social Video Apps
This past weekend, I took my daughter to see Billie Eilish at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Eilish didn't release her first "proper" album until three months ago, and plenty of folks over the age of 30 have never heard of her. But to my 13-year-old and her friends, Eilish has been a superstar for years, thanks to Soundcloud, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram. And during the concert, my daughter spent at least as much time documenting and sharing the experience on Snapchat as she did watching it without a screen.
Eilish acknowledged the dynamic; at one point she asked fans to live in the moment, but instead of asking people to put their phones away, she said "If you wanna film, that's okay. Just put it next to your face." A 17-year-old herself, Eilish knows that shooting and sharing video is simply part of the experience now, and doesn't necessarily detract from it the way older folks assume. And even as I'm writing this, my daughter is rewatching video she took at the concert.
I occasionally shoot video on my phone at a concert (in fact, I did so just last week at a Bad Religion show), but I rarely watch it. And I think that's a function of the fact that Generation Z relates to media and content in fundamentally different ways than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and, to some extent, even Millennials. (I'm not sure about "Generation Alpha," to which my 10-year-old son belongs; he watches YouTube as often as he can, but when we went to see Rhett & Link live a few weeks ago he didn't even consider shooting any video.)
For one thing, Gen Zers gravitate to image- and video-heavy social platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram, while mostly staying away from Facebook and Twitter, according a recent consumer social media survey. created by The Manifest.
Anecdotally, I see this trend in my kids. My 13-year-old daughter doesn't even have a Facebook account, spending most of her time on Snapchat and Instagram, while my 10-year-old has been begging us to get TikTok, which has replaced Vine as the go-to place for creating and sharing short video memes. Neither one has any interest in Facebook. When I asked why, they agreed that there was too much stuff on there that wasn't interesting.
The Manifest's survey reports that young people spend more time on fewer platforms overall, but from what I've seen, they are deeply, emotionally invested in YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram in a way that that, say, people aren't invested in Facebook or Twitter. They feel a deep connection to the people they follow on those platforms, in much the same way they feel a deep connection to the characters on Stranger Things and Riverdale. That investment will be on display this week at VidCon, and I'm sure a fair amount of the discussion in the Industry Track will be about how traditional media companies and distribution platforms can create that level of emotional connection. I hope the phone-obsessed Billie Eilish fans are part of the discussions.
Photo: For Maren Schumacher-Rasmussen, documenting and sharing a Billie Eilish concert was part of the experience.
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