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Instagram: Gen Z Has a Taste for Activism, Thrifting and Cultures Outside Their Own

DIY fashion, activism and entrepreneurship are tracking for 2023, according to Instagram.

The social media platform’s 2023 trend report serves as a “data-driven guide to the cultural and social trends” as defined by Gen Z. Instagram partnered with WGSN to field a survey with U.S. Gen Z consumers. The results shed light on how the cohort plans to embrace fashion, beauty, dating and community in the new year.

Understanding the Gen Z mindset, however, starts with knowing their rosy outlook. Instagram and WGSN asked survey takers to sum up 2023 in one word. Top responses were healing, energized and “main character energy.” 

Community-building will play a key part in all three. 

Described as “an activist generation,” the ranks of young U.S. consumers reaching voting age in 2023 will help drive increased visibility and activism for political issues, Instagram said. They will also put their money where their mouth is by using platforms like Instagram to donate money to causes and communities that fuel their passion. 

Disability advocacy is one of those leading issues. The survey found that three out of four Gen Z social media users want to follow an influencer who has a disability. “Expect more members of the next gen to engage with creators who advocate for those with intellectual or physical disabilities,” Instagram said. 

The role of an influencer will get more personal as well. 

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The wall between content creator and follower will fall as Gen Z social media uses realize their digital relationships through in-person experiences in the year ahead. Nearly a third of Gen Z users look forward to in-person experiences—like creator conventions and meet and greets—with their favorite influencers, Instagram said. 

Gen Z is also eager to follow favorite influencers to other forms of media. For example, more than 40 percent said they want to listen to podcasts from their favorite creators. 

They’ll likely to find their next date on Instagram, too. In 2023, Gen Z plans to use platforms like IG for dating and connections, eliminating the need to swipe left or right on established dating apps. The report said more than half of Gen Z social media users feel more comfortable being vulnerable online and over text than in person.

In tune with the cohort’s desire to build connections and community, the report said DMs and messaging “offer more transparent, honest and direct communication.” Memes are even an acceptable form of communication, however 39 percent of respondents said that having bad taste in memes could cool them on a crush. 

Though their millennial counterparts are daydreaming of “quiet quitting” and “mono tasking” at their understaffed jobs, 2023 will be the “year of the side hustle” for Gen Zers who view their social media platforms as an income source.

“Content creation isn’t just for full-time creators,” the report said, noting that 64 percent of Gen Z social media users plan to monetize a project this year. Over 85 percent of Gen Z plans to learn a new skill in 2023, and one out of four teen social media users want to increase their skills in finance.

It isn’t all business, however. While teens are using Instagram to turn their “passion projects” into income generators, the report said nearly half of creators make content to express themselves and have fun. 

DIY fashion, which emerged as a pandemic trend in 2020, is one way Gen Z plans to save a buck. Half of respondents said they plan to DIY their clothes in 2023. 

“Gen Z creatives plan to take fashion into their own hands,” Instagram said. “Sustainability is a key issue for Gen Z. As climate concerns rise, DIY clothing offers a sustainable alternative to fast-fashion.”

They’re also planning to thrift their clothing—especially for items that are out of their budget. 

The environment is influencing young consumers’ beauty purchases as well. The survey found that two out of three Gen Z shoppers plan to buy skincare or beauty products that protect against extreme weather and sun. Issues like rising air pollution and intense UV rays are driving searches for climate-proof products.

If they can’t find what they want in fashion and beauty in the physical world, Gen Z will look for it in the metaverse. Over half of Gen Z social media users plan to get fashion or beauty inspiration from digital avatars or influencers in 2023, Instagram said.

While AI beauty and fashion intrigue the cohort, the survey found digital spaces are lacking in diversity. Sixty-seven percent of Gen Z users said they feel avatars should better reflect diverse body types, clothing and skin tones in the coming year. 

In general, Gen Z is using social media as a gateway into other cultures. 

More than half of Gen Z respondents said they plan to listen to non-English-speaking artists in 2023, indicating their embrace of global music. The prevalence of K-Pop and Latinx genres on the platform are examples of users expanding their view of world sounds. 

They’re also exploring culture through their taste buds. The survey found that 68 percent of Gen Z social media users will either continue or would like to try food from another culture after discovering it online through creators and viral food content.