Filling the Void: Investigating the Impact of The Digital Society on Generation Z’s Relationships
Sammanfattning: Purpose: The purpose of this research is to contribute to the knowledge about Generation Z in the consumer society context, through a critical investigation of the possible negative impacts of the internalization of the consumerist mentality within the digital capitalist society. This is relevant since such internalization could interfere with the capacity of individuals to maintain long-term relations and influences their overall wellbeing through the stimulation of anxiety, loneliness, sense of inadequacy, and fleeting actions, among others. As the first group to arise in a completely digital society, Generation Z has the potential to have different attitudes and experiences when it comes to relationships. Theoretical Perspective: The study departs from critical studies and consumer culture theory. The most relevant theories include a Foucauldian take on self-governance and surveillance of society, and Eva Illouz’s concepts of love and relationships in a consumer society. These are important because of the effects of technology and social media on people’s attitudes and general well-being as they take part in today’s digital society. We also draw on Russell Belk’s theories of “The Self” in consumer society, and Zygmunt Bauman’s liquid modernity and love in the consumer society. Methodology: This research departs from a relativist ontology and constructivist epistemological standpoint as the outcome of research that explores a socially constructed phenomenon such as romantic relationships greatly depends on the interpretation of the researchers. The empirical material was collected by interviewing Generation Z participants (ages 16-23 years old) and analyzed using a reflexive, grounded theory approach. Empirical data: From the 16 interviews, with members of Generation Z, we identified four main ideas that were then analyzed and interpreted into three main themes that we believe encompass the impacts of a digital society on the participant’s attitudes and experiences with relationships. Conclusion: The developed themes of False Sense of Fulfillment, Individualism, and Authentic Self Presentation encompasses the attitudes and experiences of this generation with love, dating, and romantic relationships. These themes provide a new nuance to the critical marketing literature by highlighting possible negative impacts of digital capitalism mentality, which, in accordance with the literature, creates a false sense of individual empowerment on individuals. For the individuals we interviewed, who were born into and developed entirely within this culture, we found that these negative internal processes affected their attitudes and experiences toward building and maintaining romantic interpersonal relationships.
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