How Authentic Are Teens on Social Media?

December 16, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

Customer-Centric | Demographics & Audiences | Digital | Men | Privacy & Security | Social Media | Teens & Younger | Women

Research has shown that Gen Zers are more likely than others to value authenticity on social media, with many saying there’s too much pressure to be perfect on social and that they care less about impressing others than they used to. But teens in the US are still far more likely to trot out their accomplishments than they are their problems, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.

Based on a survey of more than 1,300 teens (ages 13-17), the report finds that 43% say that they ever post about their accomplishments on social media. That compares with one-quarter (25%) who post about their emotions and feelings, 12% who ever post about their dating life, and just 11% who share personal problems they’re having.

Perhaps they’re worried about the repercussions about sharing more sensitive emotions and developments. Four in 10 say that they either often or sometimes decide not to post something on social media because they worry people might use it to embarrass them. This hesitation is particularly prevalent among girls ages 15-17, half of whom at times decide not to post something on social media for this reason. Likewise, 38% of teens at least sometimes hold off posting something because it doesn’t fit with how they’d like to represent themselves on social media, with this figure rising to 51% among girls ages 15-17.

Indeed, girls tend to be more likely than boys to attribute a variety of negative issues to social media. While 38% of teens overall say that what they see on social media makes them feel a lot or a little overwhelmed because of all the drama, that rises to 45% among girls, versus 32% of boys. Likewise, girls are considerably more likely than boys to say that social media can make them feel like their friends are leaving them out of things (37% and 24%, respectively).

Even so, girls are also more apt than boys to recognize the positive aspects of social media. For example, they’re more likely to note that social media makes them feel either a lot or a little more connected to what’s going on in their friends’ lives (83% and 76%, respectively) and like they have people who can support them through tough times (72% and 62%, respectively).

Overall, almost one-third (32%) of teens surveyed say that social media has had a mostly positive impact on them personally, versus just 9% who say that it has had a mostly negative impact. (The rest are neutral on the topic.) Among those who feel that social’s impact has been mostly positive for them, the main reason is due to connections and socializing.

Still, when thinking about social media’s broader impact on people their age (rather than personally), about one-third (32%) of teens feel that social media’s impact has mostly been negative, compared to 24% who feel it has mostly been positive.

Other Survey Highlights:

  • Only 22% of teens think their parents are extremely or very worried about them using social media, though an additional 27% think their parents are somewhat worried about their social media use.
  • Roughly 4 in 10 (39%) think teens’ experiences on social media are better than parents think, while one-third (33%) think parents’ views are about right and about 1 in 4 (27%) think teens’ experiences are worse than parents think.
  • 6 in 10 teens feel they have little (40%) to no (20%) control over the personal information that social media companies collect about them, while just 14% feel that they have a lot of control over this information. The remaining quarter (26% share) aren’t sure.
  • Despite that, only about one-fifth are extremely (8%) or very (13%) concerned about the amount of personal information social media companies might know about them.

For more, check out the full results here.

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