The New-Era of Self Expression: How the next generation are tackling social media, creativity and authenticity

©The David Bowie Archive

Young people today have grown up with the ability to share content with a global community, all at the click of a button. And now, the gap between life online and offline is smaller than ever before. So much so that it should come as no surprise that for this generation, identity and technology are intertwined. Whilst some have expressed concern at the influence that social media has on their identity, new research has found that for Gen Z (18-24 year old’s), social media enables a new form of self-expression and creativity that empowers them to be their truest self.

We polled 1,000 Gen Z’s across the UK to understand what this ‘New Era of Self-Expression’ meant to them and how social media is fueling their ability to express themselves. Interestingly, over half admitted that social media was the only place they felt they could be themselves, with three in five (58 percent) stating that having an online presence makes them feel more comfortable in their own skin.

After nearly two years of lockdowns and restrictions, and a lack of large, in person celebrations, it's no wonder young people are lacking confidence in ‘real life’ situations. When we asked what was fueling this confidence gap, fear of judgment from others (42 percent) and pressure from society (34 percent) were the driving factors. But despite this, a hopeful number of young people are embracing the confidence that comes with growing older, with 40 percent believing this is something that comes with age.

“For the next generation, creativity is rooted in the ability to simply be their authentic self. It’s about ongoing self-discovery and also, about having fun.”

Simon Morris, VP of Marketing, EMEA and APAC at Adobe

Authenticity over everything

Technology has certainly evolved to meet the demand for unfiltered authenticity with the launch of apps such as ‘BeReal’, which encourage users to ‘show the world the real you’. A third (33 percent) of Gen Z said they found it easier to be themselves when taking on a persona or alter ego, with over half (55 percent) saying they’ve used a ‘secret’ alter ego to express themselves. The research also found that two-thirds have been positively influenced and inspired by a public figure - with Harry Styles, Zendaya and David Bowie amongst the top list, with 45 percent of those who took part in our research saying these icons inspired them to be more creative.

This research comes as we launch the next stage of the ‘Adobe x Bowie’ project – the virtual version of self-expression icon, David Bowie’s, dressing room, which we’ve created for people to ‘step’ into. The dressing room virtual gaming experience invites you to explore Bowie’s London dressing room where it all began (and where Ziggy Stardust was born!). The experience, created using Adobe Substance 3D and in collaboration with 3D artists from our creator community, uses archival footage to create a 3D experience exploring Bowie paraphernalia including his famous red platform boots, Hagstrom-inspired guitar and green and gold palette bangles inspired by the fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto.

The Adobe x Bowie partnership is the latest in our ongoing Hidden Treasures’ initiative to bring back to life historic tools from artists that have changed the world and place them in the hands of modern creators. We first launched this in 2017 with the digital recreation of Edward Munch’s paint brushes, continued in 2018 with the Lost Alphabets of Bauhaus Dessau, and was last seen in 2020, with the release of a range of brushes inspired by the legendary 1980s New York artist, Keith Haring.

The brand-new Bowie-inspired digital tools across Adobe Creative Cloud, created in partnership with Bowie 75 to commemorate Bowie’s 75th birthday and the 50th anniversary of one of his most beloved alter egos – Ziggy Stardust. Known for dramatic musical transformations, Bowie was considered the original ‘chameleon’ of pop, thanks to his ever-changing appearance and sound. The new tools have been inspired by Bowie’s colourful and vibrant personas and include a range of make-up brushes named after some of his biggest hits, such as ‘Ashes’, ‘Changes’, ‘Major Tom’ and ‘Queen Bish’.

With the launch of the new dressing room experience and digital tools inspired by Bowie, we want to lift the limits of creativity and empower artistic expression for all - for a future where authenticity wins.

You can check out the new dressing room from the 5th July here.