Home Health Half of Gen Z are living a double life — with a...

Half of Gen Z are living a double life — with a totally different persona online


A study of 2,000 adults revealed this disconnect narrows with age, with 25% of millennials feeling their online and offline personalities differ greatly, compared to just 15% of Gen X and 5% of baby boomers. It also emerged 48% of all respondents, across generations, at least occasionally feel a disconnect between who they are online and who they are in the real world.

And this increased when looking at Gen Z – with 75% feeling a disconnect due to living different lives in the real world versus online, which is fuelling feelings of loneliness (21%) and anxiety (18%) in younger Brits.

The research was commissioned by Lenovo, as part of its Work For Humankind project, titled ‘Meet Your Digital Self’, designed to highlight the role smarter technology and AI can play in helping to advance change and support in addressing the global youth mental health crisis.

Sarah Kendrick, clinical director at Mental Health Innovations, the charity running the UK’s Shout 24/7 text support service, said, “One in eight people globally grapple with a mental health condition, with Gen Z experiencing the greatest impact, where that figure rises to one in five. This research puts data behind what we’re seeing with young people: the digital native generation is turning to the internet as a place where they can be who they really are, and they’re finding it hard to reconcile their online and offline worlds.”

The study also revealed 61% of Gen Z wish they could have difficult conversations offline with family and loved ones, but 40% find it easier to communicate how they feel through technology. While half of Gen Z feel it’s easier to express themselves online than offline, along with 45% of millennials.

Of the 23% of younger adults who feel more comfortable being themselves online, 27% feel they won’t be judged via the internet, while 22% are not afraid to be themselves and 23% have formed stronger relationships online. Despite this, 54% of Gen Z said talking to a trained professional would give them the confidence to talk more openly with the people they love in the real world.

It also emerged the average adult spends seven hours each day in the ‘digital world’ — and nine and a half hours in the ‘real world’. Even though the volume of time spent online, 17% admit to keeping their online world a secret from some of their family members.

Gen Z were the most likely to keep their online world private, with 32% saying they have family members who don’t know about their online persona.

When presenting themselves and their opinions online, 12% admitted it’s often different from how they present themselves offline. Of those, 31% said their online persona has a bolder personality, while a quarter claimed it had a more expressive attitude.

Compared to their offline self, their online persona also has clearer likes/dislikes (24%) and more controversial opinions (21%), according to the OnePoll.com data.

“Meet Your Digital Self” sees the online personas of two Gen Z individuals from the UK and Japan brought to life as AI-powered three-dimensional avatars, designed to facilitate impactful, heartfelt conversations between the participants, family members and these avatars that might not have happened in real life otherwise. The meeting was captured by Lenovo and curated into a short film.

Emily Ketchen, global vice president and CMO of Intelligent Devices Group and International Markets at Lenovo, said: “We recognise the importance of achieving a healthy digital balance for our overall mental wellbeing.

“With huge advancements in AI and smarter technologies, now is the time to explore and pilot creative new ways to use technology like AI thoughtfully and responsibly, for the greater good.

“The avatar version of our Gen Z participants were created by carefully weaving together data from across their social media, blog and forum handles, to truly capture how they’re presenting themselves online.

“By asking the AI avatar questions, through real-time conversations, real-life family gained valuable insights into the Gen Z participant’s online world, and was able to better understand and re-connect with them.

“Ultimately, we hope that through our ‘Meet Your Digital Self’ social experiment, we can spark meaningful conversations that contribute to the mental wellbeing of individuals and communities worldwide.”

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