Rise of the Nihilistic Gen Z and Identity Expression on Social Media

Rise of the Nihilistic Gen Z and Identity Expression on Social Media

Arshi Hossain


Arshi Hossain is a first generation, 4th year Communications major minoring in Public Relations, Global narratives (storytelling in a global context), and philosophy to understand and place the little things into a bigger context. Professionally, she has 3+ years of experience within the tech, fintech and banking space focused on strategic initiatives, delivering content and projects with a deep appreciation for end-to-end products, programs and user processes. She just finished two back-to-back internships where she worked in Strategy at BMO Financial Group and in Editorial and Digital Content at Wealthsimple. She also freelances and works really closely with founders and CEOs of tech startups. At present, she works as a Content Writer at Couply, the #1 app for couples on the Google play store and as a Web Designer and Copywriter at Arcpoint Connect which produces charging accessories for electric cars. Focused in creative storytelling, she’s tailored the past years with experience in delivering strategy-backed digital experiences with a focus on context, viability, user needs and especially, meeting audiences where they are and in moments that matter. In her coming years, she aims to break into consulting and eventually continue further studies to explore her passion in philosophy.

Research Summary

Nietzsche argued that nihilism can lead to a sense of apathy, as well as a lack of interest in the world around them. This idea is particularly applicable to Gen Z, especially when considering how they express themselves as nonchalant, uncaring and apathetic, especially on social media platforms like Instagram. Let’s take a look at Instagram and the trend of photo dumps. The importance of individualism and personal identity for Generation Z can be seen in their attitude towards authenticity. This generation has been associated with the idea of “forced authenticity”, which is the belief that one has to be “real” in order to be accepted. With every action, we are perceived and with every action, we know we are being perceived by default – because we exist. So what are the ways in which we shape perception while acting like we don’t care about it? The answer: photo dumps on Instagram. My research has found that this movement pushes you to portray yourself online in a way that comes off as careless as possible—all while remaining aesthetically pleasing. Users are expected to be effortlessly cool rather than intentionally so. It’s all unbelievably ironic: A trend that claims to encourage users to be genuine on social media is ultimately making authenticity an act. The “casual” content we see on our feeds is hardly that. Behind the scenes, many individuals are anxiously over–analyzing whether their posts give off the easygoing but naturally cool vibe that they’re hoping for. It’s essential that we recognize the trend of Instagram casual photo dumps in how this relates to my topic in order to better understand our youth culture and social media trends today.


Social Media, Gen Z, Identity

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