Sizable swathes of young people in the US are replacing physical world activities with online experiences, according to Deloitte’s 2023 Digital Media Trends report. In a survey of more than 2,000 US consumers, half (50%) of Gen Zers and Millennials combined said they believe that online experiences are meaningful replacements for in-person experiences, and a similar share (48%) said they spend more time interacting with others on social media than in the physical world.
In each case, only about one-fifth of older respondents (Gen Xers, Boomers, and Matures combined) felt the same way.
Additionally, fully 40% of Gen Zers and Millennials combined said they socialize more in video games than in the physical world, compared to 9% of the older group.
The survey indicates that playing video games and watching user-generated content (UGC) are particularly appealing to younger demographics. About one-fifth (19%) of Gen Zers and Millennials combined said they enjoy playing video games more than other activities including watching TV shows or movies, listening to podcasts, and listening to music. The same share (19%) said the same about watching UGC.
By contrast, 55% share of the older cohort said they enjoy watching TV shows or movies more than the other activities listed. Only 30% of Gen Zers and Millennials could say the same. This brings to mind a previous study from Hub Entertainment Research in which 13-24-year-olds said they spent more of their screen-based leisure time with video games and non-premium video than with TV.
Returning to the Deloitte survey, of the 5 entertainment activities listed, the largest share of Gen Zers and Millennials said they felt most connected to a community of people when watching UGC, with gaming second.
Separately, Millennials reported a greater rate of subscription video-on-demand churn than other generations: 62% had cancelled a paid SVOD service in the previous 6 months, compared to 44% of respondents overall. This generation was also the most likely to have dropped at least one paid entertainment subscription and switched to a free ad-supported service, among other similar behaviors.
With economic conditions playing a role, it’s notable that Millennials are the most apt to say that they watch UGC because the videos are free to watch. Other reasons given for watching UGC are that the videos are about topics of interest (with Millennials most likely to say this) and because there’s always something new to watch (with this holding the most sway among Gen Zers).
In fact, half of Gen Zers and Millennials combined say they prefer user-generated video feeds to streaming video services, which may be why social video has been deemed by marketers to be their most important consumer trend of this year.
This can have an impact on purchase decisions, too: 70% of Gen Zers and 68% of Millennials say that UGC videos help them discover new products and services to buy and use, while more than 6 in 10 (63% and 66%, respectively) report that if an online content creator they trust has reviewed a brand’s product, they’re more likely to trust that brand. Finally, 64% of Gen Zers and 57% of Millennials claim to be more likely to purchase a product after they watch a review by an online content creator or influencer they follow.
As for gaming, this can be a considerable form of expression for youth. Among the Gen Zers and Millennials surveyed, 76% said that personalizing their game character or avatar helps them express themselves, and an equal share said that video games allow them to feel like they’re part of the story, rather than just watching it. Almost as many (73%) feel that experiencing success in video games boosts their self-confidence, while about half (49%) feel better about their self-image when playing video games.
Finally, among “committed” games who play frequently, almost three-quarters (73%) reported that playing video games helps them stay connected to other people, while 62% said that meeting up with their friends in video games is an important way for them to spend time together.
For more, check out the full results here.
About the Data: The results are based on a November 2022 survey of 2,020 US consumers. The generational definitions are defined as follows: Gen Z (1997-2009), Millennial (1983-1996), Gen X (1966-1982), Boomers (1947-1965), and Matures (1946 and prior).