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What are young people really looking for on social networks?

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Worldwide study of data from Facebook and Instagram shows when and where youth share about their faith

The topics of greatest interest among young people who are active on social networks are entertainment (television series, video games, music, sports…) and consumer goods (brands).

This is one of the conclusions of a study that analyzed global statistics of 540 million users aged 18 to 25 who are registered on Facebook and Instagram.

The document, which explores the values of so-called Generation Z, notes that 4% of young people share content regarding the Catholic faith on social networks, and that these youth have a higher level of education and a more acute concern for social issues than others.

The first report from this study analyzes the cases of the United States and Canada in particular—countries where Catholic young people are more timid when it comes to sharing their faith (2.5%).

The great majority of the nearly one million (900 thousand) American youth who actively share their faith are of Hispanic origin. The low percentage of active sharers, as compared to other countries, confirms a certain loss of public manifestation of the Catholic faith among Generation Z in the United States; this fact has already been noted by other sociological studies.

This percentage of interest in sharing religion, identical to that of Canada, is lower than that of other English-speaking countries: in the United Kingdom, for example, 2.8% of young people actively share their faith; 3% in Australia, 3.3% in New Zealand, and 7% in Ireland.

English-speaking African youth are much more active sharing their faith. In Ghana, 7.5% share their faith; 5% in Nigeria, and the same in Kenya. Latin American countries and the Philippines (10%) have high indexes of public commitment to the faith on social networks.

Among young people who are interested in Catholic matters, Pope Francis is the influencer with most followers.

The first edition of this study, which analyzes statistical data made available by Facebook and Instagram to communications and marketing agencies, was presented today at a press conference organized by the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada in Green bay, Wisconsin.

These first statistics, as well as further analyses, will be given to the participants in the Synod of Bishops regarding young people and faith which Pope Francis has convoked for October in the Vatican.

This analysis was carried out by Aleteia.org, a Catholic network active on social media in eight languages, with eleven million visitors per month, and a reach of 40 million users on social networks.

“The study presents the data without manipulation or alteration: they are the elements on which companies and institutions that want to connect with young people on these two social networks base their campaigns,” explains Professor Josep Lluís Micó, designer of the study and professor of journalism at the Department of Communication and International Relations at Ramon Llull University in Barcelona, Spain.

“These data are of the greatest importance not just for the Church, but also for other educational and social institutions, because they are useful for analyzing the objective situation of young people, without filters or ideological interpretations,” the professor adds.

In addition, the study presents various classifications of the influencers on a global scale most followed by young people in general and, in particular, by young people interested in the Christian faith. Influencers are divided into various categories: values in general, culture and entertainment, sports, and technology.

The study reveals how, in general, the interests of young people on social networks cross geographical boundaries and are generally focused on entertainment (series, video games, music…), brands, and consumer goods.

This materialism, combined with the fragility of their relationships, shows that Generation Z, unlike preceding generations, lacks reference points on the path of life.

The life of young people on social networks seems more a sailboat that needs to find favorable winds that allow it to advance, without knowing exactly what the destination is.

This explains why Pope Francis has decided to center the Church’s reflection on the challenges facing young people today. 

The first report on the social listening study can be consulted on the web page: https://aleteia.org/gen-z-study/

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