gen z

Do you have an online secret that no one knows about? Nearly half of Gen Zers feel like they’re living a “double life” regarding their offline and online personas. A survey of 2,000 Americans, split evenly by generation, found that 46 percent of Gen Z respondents feel their personality online vastly differs from how they present themselves in the real world.

However, they’re not the only ones hiding a different side of themselves behind a screen. In fact, 27 percent of respondents across all generations share this feeling, with 38 percent of millennials, 18 percent of Gen Xers, and 8 percent of baby boomers claiming to live “double life” online. The poll also asked Americans if they’re keeping their online persona a secret from any family members — and one in five said yes. Specifically, 31 percent of Gen Z respondents admitted their online world is a secret from family, while 27 percent of millennials said the same.

OnePoll conducted this research on behalf of Lenovo for the latest iteration of its “Work for Humankind” project, called “Meet Your Digital Self.” In this project, Lenovo brought the online personas of two Gen Z individuals to life as three-dimensional avatars. The avatars not only resembled each individual but also responded to real-time conversation, adjusting their tones, movements, and facial expressions based on individual quirks and emotions. The goal was to enable meaningful conversations between the Gen Z participants, their families, and the avatars, deepening understanding of each of the three participants’ online worlds. The survey highlighted the value of these conversations, as 53 percent of Gen Zers said it’s easier to express themselves online than offline. That’s compared to 40 percent of respondents overall — including 49 percent of millennials and 35 percent of Gen X. Less than a quarter (23 percent) of baby boomers said the same.

While it may be easier for some respondents to express themselves online, half the poll admits they sometimes feel a disconnect between who they are online and offline — with that number again highest for Gen Z respondents at 68 percent. For those who experience this disconnect, regardless of age, it leads to feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Respondents were also asked what they were more comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions online. About a fifth were more comfortable sharing their ambitions, their fears or insecurities, and their beliefs — political or otherwise, online than they would be offline.

Compared to their offline self, their online persona also has clearer likes/dislikes, different likes/dislikes, and more controversial opinions and values. Gerald Youngblood, the CMO of Lenovo North America, said in a statement, “Around one in five of the world’s young people have a mental health condition, reflecting a global crisis. We hope this social experiment will drive more conversations between friends and family about the need to understand each other’s worlds for the sake of mental well-being.”

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