Social media has left Gen Z without the skills needed for the workplace, including the ability to get along with colleagues who might have diffeent views, Channel 4’s boss has claimed.
Alex Mahon, chief executive of Channel 4, said in a recent talk that Gen Z – those born between 1997 and 2012 (young people aged roughly between 11 and 26 years old) – are coming into the workplace without the ability to “debate things” or “disagree”.
Increasingly, young people are consuming content via short-form videos on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. Mahon has said consuming this type of content on social media has impacted the ability of young people to consider and debate ideas.
“What we are seeing with young people who come into the workplace, Gen Z, particularly post-pandemic and with this concentration of short-form content, is that they haven’t got the skills to debate things,” she told the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge on Wednesday (20 September), according toThe Telegraph.
“They haven’t got the skills to discuss things, they haven’t got the skills to disagree.”
Mahon added that the shift towards short-form content is a “really dangerous step-change” for young people.
Research commissioned by Channel 4 showed that people in Britain watch an average of five hours of video per day, rather than live television.
According to this research, short form video – typically content of around a minute or less – constitutes 45 per cent of viewing for those aged 16 to 34, compared to 25 per cent of viewing for older people.
Mahon, who is also the RTS convention chair, pointed out that short form videos are often recommended to social media users via an algorithm, which essentially takes “control” of what they are viewing each day.
“When the algorithm is in charge, people say they feel emotionally out of control – the immediate dopamine hit fades rapidly and they are left feeling empty,” Mahon said, adding that short-form media consumption is typically associated with “feeling a lack of control”.
“Viewers worry about the pervasiveness and ubiquity of a certain type of video content,” she explained. “Our research shows that many people associate their short-form social media consumption with feeling a lack of control.
“Their decision to seek an occupation for their downtime is conscious and intentional, but that does not apply to the specific content they subsequently consume, for the simple reason that it is algorithmically served rather than selected.
“When the algorithm is in charge, people say they feel emotionally out of control – the immediate dopamine hit fades rapidly and they are left feeling empty.”
Meanwhile, the conference heard that older viewers are still loyal to public service broadcasters despite the rising popularity of streaming services.
A research study published earlier this year by Channel 4, titled the “Beyond Z report”, included more than 1,500 people in cohorts of both 13 to 24 year olds and over-25s from across the country.
Mahon wrote in its introduction: “Research tells us that [Gen Z] are not of one single mind but of many. They are not all ‘woke’. They are not all angry. Or scared of the future. Or fussed by it. Or unfussed.”