Youth State, Report 1: Identity

Youth State Report 2: Digital Wellbeing

Executive Summary

Date Published
23 May 2016

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Welcome to the second installm​​​​​​​​ent of Youth State; a bi-annual deep-dive into the minds and lives of 16-24 year olds in the UK brought to you by Adjust Your Set.

Once again, our blended methodology of quantitative and qualitative research combined with expert contributions reveals valuable and actionable insights for brands seeking to connect meaningfully with this age group. This time, as well as the second wave of tracked data examining empowerment, we have explored the state of digital wellbeing amongst this audience.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow put forward the psychological theory that people are motivated to meet certain needs, and developed a hierarchical model of five needs. Once the more basic needs have been met, we progress to the higher levels of the hierarchy. Well-being is determined by the relative achievement of meeting these needs. Mirroring Maslow’s Hierarchy, we have designed an equivalent Digital Hierarchy of Needs, designed to assess to what extent young Britons’ digital needs are being fulfilled, where the gaps lie and what brands can do to address this. Overall, respondents appear to be well aware of the drawbacks that digital life presents without allowing this to cloud their view of the opportunities and benefits it simultaneously offers.

They are realistic about how, and to what extent, digital connections can augment relationships - appreciative of the practical benefits but under no illusion that Face Time could ever replace actual face time. They are savvy when it comes to security, taking a sensible gamut of steps to protect themselves online. And they are open to their data being used to enhance their experiences.

However they are deeply frustrated by the lack of transparency in what data is harvested and why, and resentful of the lack of control they have when that data is shamelessly used in re-targeting activity which is deemed invasive and irritating.

They are also torn about paying to access content online. For so long much of what we are now charged for was available for free, and there will always be illicit means of accessing it for those with more flexible moral boundaries. Yet today’s world necessitates charging for that content, especially as in some categories the online content has overtaken the offline equivalent. Young people therefore present an ambivalent attitude; seemingly in recognition of the need to pay, and the benefits when they do, but also adamant that certain things ought to be freely accessible in the online realm.

Another major challenge to their digital wellbeing echoes findings from our last report. Their self-worth online is fragile, thanks to the pressure to present themselves in a particular, perfected manner in the online world. Their recognition of this, coupled with a strong instinct that real life is preferable because of the freedom to be imperfect leaves young people feeling less confident in themselves.

Finally, this audience are not fully convinced of the power the Internet has to empower them to have their voices heard, to make a difference, to fulfil their passions and discover new, enriching interests. Thus, their digital fulfilment is not as high as it could be.

Brands have a number of opportunities here to ensure that they are not fuelling the frustrations around data use, to reduce the pressure on online representation and to open up young people’s eyes to the potential their online life has to empower and inspire them.

Meanwhile in the offline world, empowerment scores have remained largely stable since our last wave of data. Minor shifts can be observed in personal finance, relationships and global crises. And in this wave of data the gender differences in metrics including personal finance, health and wellbeing, politics and the economy are explored. Read on to find out more about these changes, and about the state of digital wellbeing in today’s young consumers.

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Blinking lights

For each Youth State report, we invite young artists within the 16-24 age bracket to bring to life the topic of research from their own perspective. This is an opportunity to see the conversation through the eyes of our subjects.
For our digital wellbeing report, we handed the camera over to two members of our own Adjust Your Set Family.

She’s just met the love of her life… according to an Algorithm. But as she wakes up in the cold light of day she starts to wonder: If you don’t know how to feel – can a computer really do the feeling for you? As this report examines the effect that digital connectivity has on relationships this film imagines a future in which computers can help you find your soulmate.