This ongoing CivicScience series digs deep into the data to explore how young adults today (Gen Z aged 18-24) differ from young adults five years ago (Millennials now aged 25-30). What can we learn about these generations – one which entered into adulthood prior to the pandemic, the other now coming of age in the middle of it? How different are they, really? Here’s what five years of polling has to say.

Social Media and Tech Trends Among Young U.S. Adults, Then & Now

A look at 18- to 24-year-olds in 2022 compared to 18- to 24-year-olds in 2017 (yearly averages):

Believe it or not, social media usage is more moderate among today’s young adults.

Then (2017)

How much time were 18- to 24-year-olds spending on social media in 2017? Social media was of course popular at the time and 87% were users of one or more platforms. Users were more likely to spend 2 or more hours each day – a solid quarter dedicated 4 or more hours daily.

Now (2022)

How do today’s young adults compare? While they are slightly more likely to be social media users overall (88%), interestingly, they don’t spend as much time on platforms as their 2017 counterparts did. They are more likely to spend under 2 hours per day on social media, while just 19% now spend 4 or more hours. Perhaps social media has become so common, it’s just a normalized aspect of life for young adults.

Less Facebook, more Instagram. Usage of different social media platforms has shifted.

Then (2017)

Before TikTok really took off, Facebook was the most frequently used social media platform of young adults. Data show around three-quarters were Facebook users and 56% used it daily, while 43% used Instagram and 29% used Twitter daily. Twitter was actually the least most adopted app at this time (of the survey), falling behind LinkedIn – half of young adults said they never used it.

Now (2022)

The social media landscape today looks remarkably different. Daily reported Facebook usage has decreased by nearly half, although more than three-quarters continue to say they use the platform to some extent. While daily Instagram and Twitter use remains close to 2017 rates, overall adoption grew by nearly 40% for Instagram and 50% for Twitter. And while daily LinkedIn usage has increased three-fold, fewer younger adults are using it overall.

However, you can’t discuss social media today without mentioning TikTok, of which Gen Zers are avid users. CivicScience averages for 2022 show that 42% of Gen Z adults are daily TikTok users, 40% use it less than daily, and just 18% never use the platform.

Self-reported ‘digital device addiction’ is less prevalent today.

Then (2017)

In line with high social media usage trends, a staggering 71% of young adults at the time felt they were ‘addicted’ to their digital devices.

Now (2022)

That number has fallen significantly over the past five years. Today, 56% claim they are addicted to their digital devices. Does that mean young adults today are using devices less often? Most likely, views on what constitutes ‘addiction’ have changed, as smartphones and wearable devices become increasingly integrated into daily life.

That said, how has digital device favorability changed among young adults over the years? When it comes to smartphones, Apple iPhones were large and in charge in 2017, when more than half of the 18-24 crowd said they owned one. Today, the smartphone arena looks more diversified between iOS and Android. Apple iPhone still takes No.1, but Gen Z adults are slightly less likely to own an iPhone and more likely to own a smartphone made by a manufacturer other than Apple or Samsung.

More Gen Z In-Focus Insights to discover:

Brand Name Is More Important to Young Shoppers Today

Want to learn more about the Gen Z consumer in 2023? Contact us for an InsightStore demo today. And stay tuned for an upcoming CivicScience report that deep dives into all things Gen Z.