Why Gen Z is bad at consuming good news: news habits of an “instant gratification” generation

Instant gratification is a curse and a blessing. The digital era that we live in has fostered a desire for satisfaction and fulfillment at our fingertips. While this can just be seen as yet another byproduct of the pandemic — the desire for instant gratification is a trend that has its roots far earlier than 2020.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Much of Gen Z — the generation born between the years of 1997 and 2012 — grew up with technology. Whether it be the Apple devices, the rise of Instagram and Snapchat or simply the constant access to the web, youths today are often rarely seen without a cell phone in their hand.

The pandemic only exacerbated these issues.

The isolation at home increased reliance on digital tools to foster connections and cease boredom, in turn helping the gig economy boom as well. The rise of food and grocery delivery services turned once-commonplace actions into outsourced tasks. Yet many individuals relish these new offerings, claiming that it makes their days more productive and enables them to work more or nourish their relationships.

Is this the truth? Or is it feeding our desire to have ease and accessibility whenever we please?

And what about the role of news? 

Instant gratification has seeped into many aspects of our lives, including our need for surveillance. But reading the news and staying up to date is not commonly associated with fulfillment. Turning on the 6 p.m. news or picking up a copy of “The Washington Post” at the nearest newsstands are things of the past for many.

Rather, Gen Z and millennials turn to a device for all daily activities — grocery shopping included — to consume their news. Instagram accounts and TikTok videos have become the new nightly news and “New York Times” scroll. According to a 2022 survey, 50% of Gen Z respondents reported using social media daily as their primary news source, with only 13% utilizing online news sites.

Is this healthy? In a day and age of fake news, our feeds are littered with claims from unreliable sources, mixed with true professionals. The algorithm itself tailors results to what our “friends” and connections have interacted with, creating a bubble of information and a lack of exposure to varying perspectives.

How do we know whom to believe? With our lack of healthy news habits, Gen Z and millennials fall more susceptible to becoming ignorant and unaware. Lack of knowledge on a topic can lead to a skewed perception of societal happenings and can ultimately hinder growth in many career fields.

Beyond the literal act of consuming news, it is incredibly dangerous to have a generation that is not skilled at patience or with education.

The solution is far easier than many believe. Understand and adapt. The trends of Gen Z and our desirability for immediate results often seem irreversible. Hence, there is a present necessity to find ways to consume news without scrolling through a perfectly tailored, yet biased, feed. While it may grab your attention, the catchy Instagram posts and just-short-enough TikTok videos often further this web of misinformation.

What can you do about this? Choose how you can and will consume news, reliably. Listen to a podcast on your walk to class. Subscribe to a morning newsletter with the top five articles to read. Read the headlines on an online news site and pick two or three to indulge in.

Avoid the “all-or-nothing” mindset that news must be consumed in whole or in physical form. It looks different for everyone. The important part is that you stay informed and aware.

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