Gen Z is Redefining Creativity as Wellness during the Pandemic

Photo credit: @heyoitsevie

By: Julie Inouye

VSCO — As shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders test the mental and emotional well-being of people of all ages, we know it’s an especially challenging time for millions of young people whose schooling, graduations, and end of year celebrations have been abruptly cancelled. VSCO wanted to hear how Gen Z is coping in isolation and with social distancing, so we conducted a survey* to find out.  

The resounding takeaway is that Gen Z is resilient. In these times of uncertainty, Gen Zers are using creative expression as a way to cope with the stress of isolation. While 77% of teens surveyed believe the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health, 88% say expressing themselves creatively — through music, writing, photography, and more — is helping them to destress or feel less anxious.

As social media natives, members of Gen Z are expanding what it means to “socially” distance during these times. While they may not be able to gather in real life, they are using social media to continue to spread positivity, awareness and support for one another and the issues they care about.

Concern for the future 

Not surprisingly, 81% of survey respondents are feeling more anxious about the future compared to before the pandemic broke. The health of their loved ones, including family and friends (41%), their education (20%) and their finances (14%) are weighing the most heavily on the minds of Gen Z, particularly as they’ve been uprooted from their campuses and are unsure of what the fall school year will look like. 

The majority of respondents described their state of mind facing these uncertain times in negative terms, including anxious (28%), stressed (18%), worried (17%) and scared (13%). Other top responses included sad, lonely and overwhelmed.  

Creativity as wellness

To cope with these feelings, Gen Z is turning to creative pursuits, both online and in real life. A majority of them (88%) say that expressing themselves creatively has helped them to destress or feel less anxious during this time. 

Eighty-two percent said the pandemic has made them appreciate creative activities even more than before. They’ve devoted more time to activities and creative pursuits such as music (52%), journaling (38%), dancing (34%), photography and photo-editing (33%) and drawing (32%).

Keep on keeping on

We know from previous research that Gen Z care deeply about their communities and social causes. This activism and awareness has only increased as a result of the global pandemic. Eighty-seven percent of Gen Z believes the pandemic has made them feel more solidarity with others around the world and social media is helping them to spread awareness, capture and document everything going on, and creatively express their stories.

Over 74% shared they feel an increased responsibility for their parents during the pandemic and 56% for the global community at large. Over 51% felt increased worry for their neighbors, 55% for lower-income individuals and 55% for marginalized communities impacted disproportionately by the pandemic. 

The constraints of sheltering in place have not disrupted Gen Z activism and support for their communities. COVID-19 has actually increased Gen Z’s attention and awareness of social issues impacting a much broader global community, particularly those marginalized and disproportionately impacted. A resounding 88% of Gen Z have participated in some form of health awareness promotion on social media due to COVID-19 and 66% have said the global pandemic has made them more invested in politics.

Documenting your reality on VSCO 

As feelings of anxiety and loneliness have increased over the past few weeks, we’ve also seen a shift in what users are documenting about their realities and how they are connecting with others on VSCO. Alongside images of empty grocery store shelves and face masks, we’re seeing our community exploring their creativity by looking for beauty in places they would not have thought to look before. 

“It’s weird, but being stuck at home has forced me to look at my surroundings and see the beauty in familiarity,” said Evie from Sydney Australia. “It’s given me an outlet where I know I’ll feel both safe and challenged at the same time.”

“This situation has given me a chance to expand on and try new subjects and new angles,” said Levi from Nashville. “To have this time to just create is something not native to my life, but I’m glad I can experience it.”

“This quarantine has allowed me to think outside the box and focus on working with what you have to create something novel and exciting,” said Gracie from Vermont. “Being creative has allowed me to have a sense of peace as well as feel like I’m doing some ‘good’ in this time of chaos.” 

Glimmers of hope 

In talking with our community, we are encouraged to hear that scrolling through VSCO, and seeing images of everyday life has provided a deeper appreciation for living in the present moment. Seeing images of activities they will be able to do once the pandemic is over provides hope and inspiration for the future.

“Being on VSCO is filling up my head with ideas of what I’ll be able to go out and do once this ends,” said Brittany, a student at Bradley University in Illinois. “I think it’s making me more hopeful.”

“I found that I am living vicariously through some of the images that I see,” said Cassie, a high school junior in Rhode Island. “I see videos and images of people having fun and doing summer activities like hanging out on the beach (old photos obviously), but I can live vicariously through them. I can imagine what it will be like in the future when we can do those things. It’s bringing me hope.”

As we continue to physically distance from one another, the need to come together only becomes stronger. VSCO will continue to provide a space where you can come — just as you are — to find solace, connection, or creative inspiration. We hope you’ll continue to document your story, especially during these times, and carve out time to take care of yourself and those around you.

* 1,000 respondents from ages 14 to 24, conducted online by JUV Consulting from April 4 to April 22.

JUV Media is a collection of JUV press features — from our staff to our campaigns.