Study reveals Gen Z feels a stark disconnect between online and offline personas

By Staff

A study of 2,000 adults found 50% of Gen Z have a different persona online than they do in the real world, leading to increased feelings of loneliness and anxiety

A survey of 2,000 adults has shown that the gap between online and offline personalities narrows with age. A quarter of millennials feel their online and offline selves are very different, compared to just 15% of Gen X and a mere 5% of baby boomers.

The study also found that nearly half (48%) of all participants, regardless of age, sometimes feel a disconnect between their online persona and their real-world self.

This feeling is even more pronounced among Gen Z, with a whopping 75% feeling a disconnect due to leading different lives online and in reality. This is contributing to feelings of loneliness (21%) and anxiety (18%) among younger Brits.

The research was commissioned by Lenovo as part of its ‘Work For Humankind’ project, titled ‘Meet Your Digital Self’. The project aims to highlight how smarter technology and AI can help address the global youth mental health crisis.

Sarah Kendrick, clinical director at Mental Health Innovations, the charity behind the UK’s Shout 24/7 text support service, said: “One in eight people globally grapple with a mental health condition, with Gen Z experiencing the greatest impact, where that figure rises to one in five.”

“This research puts data behind what we’re seeing with young people: the digital native generation is turning to the internet as a place where they can be who they really are, and they’re finding it hard to reconcile their online and offline worlds.”

The research also showed that 61% of Gen Z would prefer to have tough conversations face-to-face with family and loved ones, but 40% find it easier to express their feelings through tech. Half of Gen Z and 45% of millennials feel more at ease expressing themselves online than in person.

Among the 23% of young adults who feel more comfortable being themselves online, 27% believe they won’t be judged on the internet, 22% aren’t scared to be themselves, and 23% have formed stronger relationships online. However, 54% of Gen Z said speaking to a trained professional would give them the confidence to communicate more openly with their loved ones offline.

The study also found that the average adult spends seven hours each day in the ‘digital world ‘ and nine and a half hours in the ‘real world’. Despite the amount of time spent online, 17% confess to keeping their online life hidden from some family members.

Gen Z were the most likely to keep their online world private, with 32% saying they have family members who are unaware of their online persona. When presenting themselves and their views online, 12% admitted it’s often different from how they present themselves offline. Of those, 31% said their online persona has a bolder personality, while a quarter claimed it had a more expressive attitude.

The study, which was conducted by, surveyed over 2,700 people and found that 24% of respondents said their online persona has stronger likes and dislikes than their offline self, while 21% said their online persona has more controversial opinions.

Lenovo has created a short film called “Meet Your Digital Self” that explores the findings of the study. The film features two Gen Z individuals from the UK and Japan who have had their online personas brought to life as AI-powered three-dimensional avatars.

The avatars are designed to facilitate heartfelt conversations between the participants, their family members, and the avatars that might not have happened in real life.

Emily Ketchen, global vice president and CMO of Intelligent Devices Group and International Markets at Lenovo, said: “We recognise the importance of achieving a healthy digital balance for our overall mental wellbeing.”

“With huge advancements in AI and smarter technologies, now is the time to explore and pilot creative new ways to use technology like AI thoughtfully and responsibly, for the greater good. The avatar version of our Gen Z participants were created by carefully weaving together data from across their social media, blog and forum handles, to truly capture how they’re presenting themselves online.”

“By asking the AI avatar questions, through real-time conversations, real-life family gained valuable insights into the Gen Z participant’s online world, and was able to better understand and re-connect with them. Ultimately, we hope that through our ‘Meet Your Digital Self’ social experiment, we can spark meaningful conversations that contribute to the mental wellbeing of individuals and communities worldwide. “.

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