Digital content is Gen Z’s religion

Gen Z is turning to music and social media to fulfill religious needs, according to a study by Current Forward.

Like Millennials before them, Gen Z is broadly secular. As a result, many are turning to online platforms to fulfill needs for comfort that many older generations found in God. 

Almost half of Gen Z (47%) and 41% of millennials do not consider themselves religious, according to a survey of 2,000 people by Current Forward.

The survey defined religion as something that provides meaning and purpose, a moral compass and a means to help others; offers a sense of mental and physical wellbeing as well as a culture and tradition; offers a way to explain the unexplainable; and creates a community and social connection.

To fill these voids in their own lives, 45% of Gen Zers turn to music, entertainment and other digital content where older generations may have turned to religion. 

More specifically, survey respondents pointed to YouTube, Instagram and Discord as fulfilling their needs around the attributes of religion that they care about most: taking care of mental and physical well-being (81%), helping others (73%) and offering a meaning and purpose in life (73%). 

But it's important to remember that these dimensions are nuanced, said Lillian Brown, co-founder and marketing and experience strategy lead at Current Forward.  

“For instance, helping others for Gen Z is monetary, but it's also very much about providing their time, advice and general availability to others,” she said. 

Brands that want to resonate with the younger generation need to “drive community and connection” to fulfill important spiritual needs, Brown said. 

They also need to help address the mental health crisis in the U.S., which is extremely top of mind for this generation, whether that’s through brand partnerships, influencers or even digital products like Apple’s screen time tracker on iPhones. 

“Mental health is extremely important to Gen Z,” Brown said. “Gen Z can't seek out a meaning or purpose in life, help others or create social connections with people until their mental health is in a good place.” 

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