Gen Z in Western Europe self-report spending an average of four hours on social media every day, and the majority admit being addicted to it. We know Gen Z is constantly navigating between different social platforms, but the interest they have and the time they spent on each vary greatly—as do their feelings about each of the platforms that are available to them.
In our recent WE Social Media Behavior survey, YPulse asked young people in Western Europe to tell us which of the seven most-used social media platforms they’d most likely describe as addictive, boring, and fake. Here’s the top platforms that Gen Z picked for each descriptor:
TikTok is the most addictive app to European Gen Z, far more than any other social media platform
Let’s start with “addictive,” the adjective that all social media platforms dream to be described as. TikTok has recently become the most used social media platform among Gen Z in Western Europe, quite an achievement for the app that started as a pandemic hype just a few years ago. Now, TikTok is dominating the attention economy, and young Europeans just can’t get enough of it. As a result, the majority of European Gen Z in Western Europe describe it as addictive (54%), far more than any other social media—Instagram follows -40points behind. Gen Z in North America are also most likely to describe TikTok as addictive, proving that TikTok has a hold on young people’s time and attention around the world.
Data from YPulse’s The TikTok Effect Trend report dug into the time Gen Z in Western Europe spent on each social media, and it turns out that TikTok is the platform where young consumers spend the most time. A whopping 44% of European Gen Z TikTok users self-report spending more than three hours on the app daily, with 13% even spending more than five hours on the platform every day. TikTok knows that its platform is highly addictive to young consumers, and recently implemented a one-hour screentime limit for users under 18-years-old (which they can, and will, bypass). TikTok is trying to appear as a responsible social media platform, especially at a time when the platform is under the scrutiny of many governments in Western Europe, who are concerned about the potential misuse of personal data by the Beijing-based company. Many of them have already banned access to the app for their staff—including the EU, too.
Instagram is the platform European Gen Z are most likely to describe as fake
When asked which social media platform they describe as “fake” among a list of the most used social media platforms, 22% of young consumers in Western Europe give Instagram as their answer, over +10pts more than TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook. While Instagram has adapted to short-video content style in recent years to compete with TikTok—which sparked the Make Instagram Instagram Again controversy in return—the platform is still the home of a type of content that tend to be over-the-top, filtered, and perhaps more likely to show users in their most positive light. Instagram has become synonymous with a filtered image, and expressions such as the “Instagram face” or “Instagrammable” are here to say. A lot has been said about the negative impact of filters on young people’s mental health in Western Europe, and the concept received so much backlash recently that the French government is even considering forcing influencers to add a label to their filtered pictures. Gen Z is especially fueling the trend of embracing imperfection on social media, and YPulse informed you that Gen Z is tired of seeing perfectly polished images from brands.
The fact that Instagram is the social platform that Gen Z most describe as fake doesn’t mean Insta isn’t popular among young Europeans. It’s quite the opposite, and YPulse recently informed you that Instagram is European Gen Z’s 10th brand with the highest YScore+. It is also the third platform Gen Z in Western Europe turn to the most for their entertainment, with 56% of them saying they use Instagram to watch video content weekly or more often. Despite increasing competition with TikTok, which risks making Instagram look cringe for this gen, the platform remains a staple among young consumers in the region. Its popularity shouldn’t be ignored, and brands should continue their presence and marketing on the platform.
YouTube is seen as an authentic platform for European Gen Z
It should be noted that only 4% of European Gen Z name YouTube as a “fake” social media platform, reinforcing what YPulse has long told you: young consumers have a lot of trust in YouTube. In our WE Celebrities and Influencers Report, YPulse asked young Europeans which public figures they trust the most among a list including Instagrammers, TikTokers, and Snapchatters as well as public figures like police, news anchors, and politicians. More than two in five European Gen Z answered YouTubers (42%), far more than other types of public figures. And the trust these young consumers have in YouTube can be observed in North America, too. YouTube has also managed to stay relevant among young consumers with the launch of YouTube Shorts in 2021, a direct competitor to TikTok. Data from our own brand tracker Yscore+ shows that this new short video platform is performing relatively well in Western Europe compared to other video services.
Two in five European Gen Z describe Facebook as boring
When it comes to which social platform European Gen Z describes as the most boring, Facebook is taking the lead. Gen Z is just not interested in the type of content they find on Facebook: only 9% describe the platform as “entertaining,” and 6% as “fun,” miles away from how the younger gen feels about TikTok. There’s also a real generational divide when it comes to Facebook usage. The Meta-owned platform is omnipresent in the life of older Millennials, with 75% of 22-39-year-olds saying they use the platform. And YPulse’s The TikTok Effect Trend Report also shows that 36-39-year-olds are most likely to name Facebook as their favorite social platform. In short, Facebook has aged with European Millennials and hasn’t managed to capture Gen Z.
But European Gen Z is not completely ghosting the platform either, and YPulse data from our recent WE Social Media Behavior Report shows that nearly two in five European Gen Z use Facebook (36%), more than Twitter, Pinterest, or even the trendy BeReal. So even if Gen Z thinks the content they find on their Facebook wall is boring, some are still maintaining a presence on the platform. This is because Facebook is where European Gen Z connect with family members, and YPulse’s research shows that 66% of Gen Z users say they most want to see content from their family on Facebook—far more than friends, brands, or celebs. Facebook helps Gen Z to connect with (well, older) family members in a way that no other social platform allows them to do and explains why a third keep their account active despite being bored by the content they see on the platform.