Is our generation, the controversially regarded “Gen Z,” more or less informed than our predecessors? We seem to be living within an obsessively informational sphere— I can’t spend so much as five minutes without receiving a push notification on one of my devices, which are admittedly strapped to my wrist or resting in my pocket at most hours of the day. 

Gen Z is, perhaps rightly, criticized for our constant screen usage and never ending scrolling…texting… etc. But amid our tendency to stay constantly “plugged in,” do we really know what is going on? 

Though Pew Research Center data shows a steady decline in total circulation of U.S. daily newspapers over recent decades, to what extent is the harsh implication of this trend really true? Are young people becoming less informed, or are we merely informing ourselves in different ways? 

Though one may hold onto hope in consulting the fact that news websites are gaining viewership, the unfortunate, credibility-stifling trend remains: duration of viewership on such news websites is sharply declining [Figure 1].

Figure 1 (Pew Research Center)

Considering the written nature of most content on such news websites, a sharp decrease in viewership translates to a somewhat predictable decrease in news readership.

But what does that really mean? Perhaps waning news readership is merely indicative of a decline in the power of its medium… readership, rather than a scathing statement about generational news consumption.

Though readership is trending downward, the American Press Institute states that the majority of Americans aged 16-40 consume news on a frequent basis. Seventy-nine percent of Gen Z and millennials consume news daily, while 96 percent consume news at least on a weekly basis. 

News consumption among younger generations remains steady, but it is not limited to traditional news websites. Rather, it includes TV stations and social media platforms. While I’d never attempt to suggest that TikTok is a reliable source of news, younger generations’ harnessing of multimedial forms of information ought to be acknowledged, and perhaps even embraced. 

Figure 2 (Statista)

Generation Z, in fact, has the widest range of media habits. But among the various informational sources Gen Z consumes, social media dominates our screen time [Figure 2].

Social media, a new art form, presents many new opportunities for dialogue and self-expression. Yet, it also presents a new question about informational credibility.

Though Gen Z consumes media at an extreme rate in comparison with older generations, the extent to which this consumption is actually informative is a debate for the ages.

Regardless of the answer to this consideration, one thing is for certain: social media is here to stay.

Though us Zoomers are glued to our screens, consuming everything from high quality news to brain-rotting Tik Tok videos, maybe variety in consumption is something to be valued. 

Maybe, just maybe, the encouragement of critical thinking within the social sphere could prove a wonderful opportunity for equitable conversation. After all… digital media, in all its variety, seems to be the future.