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Lies, D@mned Lies, and Statistics. Would Gen Z know the difference?

Thanks to the 2016 U.S. election cycle, media headlines about fake news are as inescapable as garlic in gazpacho. And that’s not a political statement – it’s simply a fact. Statista.com reports that Americans are exposed to more fake news than South Koreans, which seems so crazy it’s almost unbelievable.

It was suggested that I write something on Gen Z’s ability to discern fact from fiction, and what I found doesn’t exactly make me want to dance on a flower-packed knoll ala Julie Andrews. Let’s not forget my house is crowded with iGen boys! So let’s start with the data – because numbers don’t lie (do they???):

· According to PEW Research, Gen Z uses YouTube (94%), Snapchat (78%) and Instagram (71%).

· Compare this with Americans over 50 who use Facebook (56%), YouTube (55%), Snapchat (7%) and Instagram (16%).

· 40% of all social media users say it would be hard to give up social media a number that increases to 51% for Gen Z.

· Gen Z spends up to nine hours per day consuming media which is twice as much as the average American. [This number is especially distressing to me.]

· 82% of Gen Z identifies a social media platform as their source of news with Instagram at 29% and YouTube at 22% at the top of the list.

Meanwhile, it’s reported that the primary source of fake news are social media platforms at 42%. Which leads to the inevitable reality that because it’s how they’ve grown up, 82% of Gen Z struggles to distinguish between fake and real news. Influence marketing is also in play, with 70% of Millennial consumers saying they’re convinced to buy something because of their peers. (The information out there on Influencers is significant but I'll save it for a future post because statistics also tell me you're already bored by this article.) From an economic perspective, the whole fake news thing has been more than just a little interesting. On 7/26 Facebook suffered the largest one-day rout in stock market history – plummeting by $119BN in a single day – partly because of regulation and backlash for its role in the dissemination of propaganda.

What's to be done about it? Stanford University did a study, which was covered by the WSJ; it concludes parents, grandparents, and educators are still in the best position to really influence what kids think. Which, perhaps, is what should provide the most comfort: the more things change the more they stay the same. As I was growing up in the 70s/80s, pervasive “garbage” in the form of brat pack movies was supposedly corrupting our minds irretrievably and yet we survived just fine.

My personal choice is to resist the notion that older generations got it completely right and future ones are doomed just because they’re different. Change is simply how the human race rolls – I wouldn’t want to be churning butter by hand or riding to work in a buggy. Would you?

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