I’m talking about a dilemma that applies to Gen-Z – the cohort born in the mid-to-late 1990s, after the millennial generation. They were born into a digital world, which means they don’t know a life without computers, cellphones and the internet. They have online personas [which might seem like a foreign concept to the vast (but dwindling) majority of people in older cohorts] that are utterly important to their sense of self. So much so that their real life communications skills may be suffering.
According to research highlighted by Tony Spong on Marketing Magazine, Gen-Z’s penchant for the digital world means some of them are lacking in ‘epistemic trust’. It’s a kind of trust that you develop through face-to-face communication, with filters that allow us to make snap judgments about body language and non-verbal cues to determine if someone is telling the truth.
Interesting fact: “Children as young as 18-24 months can distinguish between someone telling the truth or not based on key elements of body language.”
In the digital world, Gen-Z have adopted a whole new language for conveying emotions, using emoticons, acronyms and initialisms. But these shortcut methods aren’t exactly a perfect substitute, and all too often things get lost in communication, and not just online. Some Gen-Z’s are experiencing confusion when it comes to real-world interactions, particularly when it comes to meeting digital friends in person because they seem different in real life. As Spong points out, it’s almost as if some of their epistemic filters are missing.
The take away for brands is that there are consequences as they seek to reach Gen-Z’ers in the digital realm. They need to be thinking about their online persona, and how this translates into their persona in the physical world, so as to ensure they remain (or become) connected with this important cohort.