Sophia Rascoff, Co-Founder and CEO, Recon Food
As a 16-year-old I was not surprised by the recent Attorney General ask questions in TikTok. The large-scale investigation examines whether the popular app has been built and has continued to promote its platform in ways that harm the physical and mental health of young people.
I was not surprised, but I was saddened. I have seen first hand how social media has influenced my generation. We are the first true digital natives, and we are the ones paying the price. A recent ORIGIN study found that 48% of Gen-Z respondents said social media makes them anxious, sad, or depressed and 58% seek social media relief. I see that playing in my peers, and I’ve felt the pressure of it too.
We all go online looking for relationships, laughter and sharing, but we are bombarded with so many forms of negativity. So much of it is an illusion — airbrush influencers, unattainable ideals, toxic discourse, and staged imitations of reality — but the impact on our well-being is real. What we hope will be a source of escape sometimes turns out to be exactly what we need to escape from.
But I still don’t believe that social media has to be bad. I think it’s worth not only recognizing how these apps affect people now, but also remembering what these apps could be: a way for people to really connect and come together in a digital world.
Gen-Z is one of the largest generations – in the United States, along with millennials and younger generations, there are more than 166 million of us, just over 50% of the country’s population. But our strength lies in more than just our numbers. We have the opportunity to take control of our mental health by having an impact on the social media we love. We can be intentional about how we want to interact with each other and what we want to see. And if it isn’t there yet? We can build it.
I know that’s true because that’s exactly what I did. After becoming exhausted from social media during the pandemic, I thought long and hard about what I was missing. I realized I craved a more positive experience. In fact, I wanted to feel engaged and inspired, but not overwhelmed. And I wanted to make and maintain connections that felt authentic.
That was the germ of what grew into the food-centric social media platform I co-founded this year. By sharpening ourselves on one vertical, we’re bringing social media back to basics to take the pressure and stress off. It is food and life, simple and unfiltered.
If you’re feeling equally dissatisfied with your social experience, it’s worth asking yourself what better digital interactions might look like for you. Because as the saying goes, “If it’s not us, then who is? If not now, when?” Here are some things to consider along the way.
† Start with the basics. Take a look at why you’re on social media in the first place: What kind of content gets you excited? Why do you reopen an app over and over? Distill the positive and incorporate it into what you create.
† Identify a market need† We know people want an uplifting social experience, but which of your interests, passions, or hobbies do you think are missing from this space? I got into food because cooking together helped my family get through the pandemic. Focus on what moves you.
† Make it people-oriented. Ultimately, the potential of social media lies in its ability to connect people with who or what they like. Yes, it is a technical platform, but with humanity at its heart. Center your work around people every step of the way.
† Always remember sanity. Much of today’s social media is amplifying our society’s mental health crisis. How can we filter out stress, shame and isolation? What do you think could bring more positivity into people’s lives? Make that your base.
† Do not give up. Bringing your mission to life isn’t always easy, and the world isn’t always ready for the younger generation to take control. But stick with it. Believe in the change you want to see.
Can one app change the world? Maybe not. But together I believe we can help heal and connect a generation by making our social media experience a lot more enjoyable.
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