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New Poll By ExpressVPN: Generation Z Cares About Digital Privacy, But Their Desire For Online Fame And Popularity Is Greater

Around half (47%) admit to having deleted a post because it was not getting enough likes; 1 in 3 said they have purchased followers
78% say they would be willing to share personally identifiable information with social media companies for online fame
2 in 5 (40%) admit they have one or more “finsta,” or fake Instagram account; more than half of which (54%) have 3 or more such accounts
62% say the “Hide Likes” feature on Instagram and Facebook has decreased their anxiety around posting

Generation Z is widely regarded as the first generation of true digital natives, having little to no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones. ExpressVPN commissioned a study, in collaboration with Pollfish, surveying 1,500 Americans between the ages of 16 to 24 to reveal the extent to which this generation is impacted by their use of social media.

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For many in Generation Z, feeling accepted by one’s peers is quantifiable through social media platforms. In fact, most Gen Z respondents admit that social media impacts their happiness (86%), self-image (85%) and anxiety (83%). This is likely the reason why nearly half of Generation Z admit that they’ve deleted a post that’s not getting the desired amount of likes.

Generation Z isn’t entirely trusting of the social media platforms they covet, expressing concern that social media platforms may be using their images for facial recognition (67%) and expressing wariness about oversharing personal information on their social media accounts (66%). As a result, they typically use at least one privacy and security setting on their social media accounts, such as two-factor authentication (64%) and disabling contact syncing (50%).

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Another way that Gen Z is actively protecting themselves and their private content is by creating alternate accounts that can be used for public vs. private content. According to ExpressVPN’s findings, 40% of Gen Z respondents said they have a “Finsta” or fake Instagram account, more than half of which have three or more accounts. The primary reason for these fake accounts is that they provide a certain level of anonymity within the social media sphere. Yet, it’s important to note that there are also some nefarious uses of such profiles that other users should be aware of. For example, 1 in 4 (25%) say they use their “Finsta” to look at other people’s profiles anonymously, 18% to follow someone who blocked a separate account, and 17% specifically to keep tabs on an ex.

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Yet, 78% would be willing to give up personally identifiable information in exchange for social media fame. Additionally, 40% would give up more personal data in exchange for early access to new features, and 27% would share personal data with third parties if it meant they could have a verified account.

They also take risks when it comes to their online behaviors as they seek to level up their online reputation. A staggering 1 in 3 members of Generation Z have purchased followers on social media, even though half of them knew it was a security risk and the high likelihood of the followers being bots. Yet, they’d take the risk for the potential of getting a verified profile (40%), convincing followers they have more friends than they actually have (38%) and/or the prospect of attracting brand collaborations (36%).

“One of the most surprising findings is that even though Gen Z knows how social media corporations are mining personal data and selling it to third parties, they are still willing to disclose their most personally identifiable details in exchange for social media fame. An Instagram post or TikTok video might grant a few days of fame, but a third-party company’s access to your personal information can last forever,” commented Harold Li, vice president, ExpressVPN.

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