📢 This blog post is part of a new series featuring the brilliant Gen Z minds from our very own TRFF Loop, and their thoughts and perspectives on our generation, trend dynamics and brand relationships.
Escapism is a common way for people to deal with the fast-paced and connected world we live in today, and Gen Z is no exception. This generation grew up during a time of rapid technological advancements and social reconstruction. Dealing with such changes can be overwhelming. Because of this, they have a strong tendency to try to find comfort and relief from the pressures of everyday life in different ways.
Today, we’ll look at why Gen Z loves to escape, with a focus on three main drivers: mental health, fan communities and the experience economy. We will also talk about the effects that too much escapism has on this generation, such as distorting reality and peer pressure. Plus, how brands can leverage escapism in their business strategies.
1: Mental Health and Escapism
The ever-increasing reports of shootings, most documented in America, enacted by disturbed teens points to dark and troubled minds. Statistics show that suicide is the top cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24, and nearly 20% of high school students say they have thought about suicide and 9% have tried to end their lives.According to the Pew Research Centre, 70% of teen respondents say that their friends have serious problems with anxiety and depression. The picture is very clear for this demographic: Gen Zers have severe mental and physical health problems. So, how do most deal with these problems? Escapism.
Let’s deep dive into the drivers and consequences of using escapism to cope with poor mental and physical health.
Social media apps such as Instagram, TikTok, and LinkedIn have become an integral part of the Gen Z reality and younger generations, offering a space for self-expression and connection. However, being constantly exposed to carefully chosen material and carefully crafted personas can unintentionally lead to unrealistic expectations and feelings of not being good enough. As Gen Zers try to live up to the seemingly perfect lives shown on social media, they often turn to escape to deal with the stress of comparison. Ironically, social media usage can be considered a form of escapism and now people escape the very thing that was meant to help them escape reality.
Constant Negative News
In the internet age, Gen Z consumers are bombarded with negative messages, from political upheaval and environmental disasters to global pandemics and economic hardships. “Doomscrolling,” when people obsessively read unpleasant news, might result from this steady stream. Binge-watching TV, playing video games, in-person events, excessive messaging or immersing themselves in imaginary worlds provides a momentary escape from the real world’s harshness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Gen Z’s mental health. Isolation, unpredictability, and disruptions have affected their mental wellbeing. Escapism helps many people deal with loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Virtual reality and daydreaming let people escape the pandemic and its worries.
Effect #1: Distorted Reality
Excessive escapism can blend truth with illusion. Gen Z may lose touch with reality as they spend more time in virtual worlds, reading fiction or listening to an ill informed podcast. This may limit personal growth and life skills, creating a gap between expectations and reality (*cough*LinkedIn*cough*).
Effect #2: Excessive Peer Influence
Social media apps and online communities can generate echo chambers that influence Gen Z’s beliefs and preferences. As social media trends and information spread quickly, escapism might worsen this issue. Younger generations may feel compelled to adhere to popular trends rather than embrace their uniqueness due to excessive peer influence. This limits adult influence as evident with the constant unpleasant mocking of boomers from Gen Z. Traditions evolve yet teach a lot.
Effect #3: Perpetuating Poor Mental Health
Escapism may temporarily relieve tension and anxiety, but it does not treat their origins. Escapism can lead to a cycle of avoidance, when people temporarily flee their difficulties but return to them without establishing stronger coping methods. This may worsen mental health difficulties over time. The mind is simply not going to respond well. Gen Z entrepreneurs suffer the most.
Understanding that Gen Z’s usage of escapism to deal with poor mental health is unsustainable, HUM Nutrition promotes their products as tools for self-improvement and well-being, thus positioning them as a way to escape daily stressors and focus on self-care. In addition, HUM Nutrition has made sure their Gen Z audience have a place to go online where they feel comfortable talking about their mental and physical health. Plus, they provide free carefully curated educational content about overall wellbeing, offering value beyond their products. This content is mostly shared through their TikTok.
Escaping through Fan Communities
With the rise of digital platforms, a new kind of escape has been born that is deeply connected to fan communities. Fan communities are a good way to escape because they give young people a sense of belonging and validation. Here are the most important drivers and consequences.
Sense of Community
For Gen Z, fan communities are a fun way to get away from the daily routine. These groups are made up of people who like the same TV shows, films, books, podcasts on Spotify, video games or any idea. The appeal comes from the chance to meet other people who love the same fandoms as you do. Through hashtags, virtual events or even direct messaging, Gen Z can share their passions, ideas, and creative works, like fan art and fanfiction, without being judged. Having a sense of belonging to a friendly and understanding group can help people feel safe and secure, especially when things are hard.
Gen Z can take a break from the stresses of real life and get lost in the worlds of their favourite curated ideas by getting involved in fan groups. These connections not only meet their need for social contact, but also help them feel like they belong and are accepted, which is good for their overall health.
Social media apps have become an important part of Gen Z’s lives in the digital age. A big part of the relationship between escapism and fan groups is the need for external validation. When a fan shares content in these groups, it gives them a chance to be noticed and praised by other fans. The number of likes, retweets, or comments becomes a way for them to feel good about their self-image. But their search for approval may hurt their sense of who they are and how real they are.
Effect: Lack of Personal Identity
Escapism through fan communities can give you a strong sense of community and external validation, but it could also cause you to lose a strong sense of who you are as a person. Some people may follow the most popular ideas and trends in a group because they want to be liked, even if it goes against what they really think or like. As a result, people’s sense of self may become less clear, and they may move towards a more collectivist way of thinking.
This group method of escaping reality can make people’s ideas start to sound the same and cause them to lose their own unique perspectives and creative voices. According to research by McKinsey, the risk is that Gen Z might care more about fitting in and being accepted than about being themselves, which could stop them from growing and learning about themselves.
Ben & Jerry’s is a great example of how brands can tap into Gen Z’s usage of fan communities to escape. Instead of building a fan community to drive sales, they have carefully fostered a community around activism. They don’t want their customers to only talk about ice cream but all the global issues they are concerned about. Since they frequently use cause related marketing corresponding to the trending activism movement, hearing about the issues their Gen Z audience and customers care about helps plan philanthropic campaigns much easier.
Rise Of The Experience Economy
Gen Z’s love of escapism and the rise of the experience economy go hand in hand. Their choice for immersive, personalised escapism comes from the fact that they value experiences more than material things, the need for personalization, and the focus on overall well-being after the pandemic.
Experiences Over Materialistic Possessions
Gen Z’s preference for experiences over materialistic possessions is reshaping the economy. Sustainability rising into the mainstream is a major contributing factor. Instead of trying to get more things, they want to have moments that are memorable and give them emotional satisfaction. Gen Z consumers can briefly escape the monotony of daily life through these kinds of events, which make them feel excited and amazed.
In the experience economy, escapist Gen Z consumers break away from the traditional consumerist attitude and instead focus on collecting memories and shared experiences with friends and people with similar interests. Whether shopping at home or in a store, a good experience is needed. This change shows that they value authenticity and connection more than material possessions. This makes escaping through experiences a strong way to feel happy and fulfilled.
Need for Personalization
Gen Z is a generation that values individuality and personalization. As they consent to access to their personal data, they expect tailored experiences in return. Instead of a one-size-fits-all method, they want experiences that are made just for them, taking into account their unique demographic, tastes and preferences. This need for personalization shows up in the way they use entertainment and media as a way to escape.
Escapism in the form of personalised experiences gives Gen Z the freedom to explore their hobbies and interests. This gives them the power to shape their own realities and escape into worlds that fit with who they are as people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting impact on Gen Z’s outlook on life. As a generation that has been through more changes and uncertainty than any other, they are more aware of how important well-being and mental health are. After the pandemic, escapist tendencies have taken on a new role as a way to take care of yourself and improve your general health.
In the wake of the pandemic, escaping into experiences has become a way to deal with stress and anxiety. It gives people a chance to forget about the worries of the real world for a little while. Gen Z seeks experiences that promote relaxation, connection, and emotional rejuvenation.
There aren’t detailed effects of the experience economy on consumers yet. However, just like anything less, too much is harmful.
For the past two years Cadbury hosted a virtual chocolate egg hunt on Easter. Similar to Pokemon Go, customers could walk around London to find eggs hidden by their loved ones. Not only did Cadbury create something that boosted customer engagement but also a fun way to escape reality and experience Easter. This is the type of experience Gen Z is looking for.
As we peel back the layers of Gen Z’s escapism, it becomes clear that this generation’s pursuit of happiness and fulfilment goes hand in hand with their desire for connections and personal growth. By escaping from reality through fan communities, they’ve been able to break out of their limitations and build a passion for things they all like.
Also, the experience economy has opened the door to a world of personalised and relaxing escapes that meet the need for self-care and general well-being. Gen Z has changed what it means to find happiness in the modern world by choosing experiences over things.
In conclusion, Gen Z’s love of escapism shows how strong and creative this digital-native group can be. As they continue to change culture, we need to understand and support their search for real bonds, mental health, and immersive experiences. By using escape as a positive force, we can help raise a generation that does well and finds happiness in both the virtual and real worlds. For instance, combining sustainability with escapism. Let’s enjoy Gen Z’s love of escapism by embracing the trends and ideas that make them the happiness pioneers of a new era.