Gen Z’s Obsession with AI Is the Real Deep Fake

As an AI bill gets debated in Congress and AI versions of real-life influencers roam the streets, brands are gearing up to draw in Gen Z using AI technology. And, yes, this means we now live in a world with Heinz AI ketchup bottles.

While we know Gen Z is picking up new AI technologies faster than previous generations, how obsessed is Gen Z actually with AI? 

We asked The Receipt, JUV’s network of 9,000+ Gen Zers, how they feel about AI and how they *actually* want to use it. We found that respondents loved ChatGPT — and felt much iffier about using most other AI offerings.

There’s mixed feelings. 

Most respondents interact with AI once to several times a week (61%). However, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for more AI in their lives: 8 out of 10 respondents were not interested in using AI any more than they currently are. While young people are eager to use AI, especially in the workplace, their lack of AI literacy may be impacting their usage rate (and desired rate). 

Respondents were also torn on how much they trusted AI: 50% said they were ‘trustful’ to ‘somewhat trustful,’ while 45% felt ‘distrustful’ to ‘somewhat distrustful.’ No respondents reported feeling ‘very trustful’ of AI. 

With so much potential comes so many issues, and keeping this under check will be an even bigger hassle than developing AI, in my opinion”– 18, Man, Illinois 

Gen Zers have a (AI) type.

From ChatGPT to viral AI songs to deep fakes, AI can show up in many ways in day-to-day life, some more positively than others. 

ChatGPT is a fan-favorite with the Receipt. It’s the type of AI most used by respondents, and when asked what AI tool or content they liked the most, 75% said ChatGPT or other AI chatbots like Bard

“ChatGPT is the perfect example of an accessible AI. Given the discrepancies in education, access to educational resources, and proficiency in writing, I think ChatGPT is important.”  – 24, Non-Binary, Pennsylvania 

After ChatGPT became popular, other tech giants joined the chatbot bandwagon but are taking a more personal approach: giving a face and name to an accessible AI pal. 

While Snapchat’s “My AI” scratches the surface of “humanizing” chatbots, Meta is leveraging the faces of celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Mr. Beast but giving them different names and personas. 

However, these AI characters based on real-life celebrities weren’t popular with respondents, receiving 0% of votes for favorite AI — the lowest of any type listed. Celebrities are also raising significant concerns about the use of their likeness in AI. 

Maybe it’s the out-of-date references or the uncanny valley of it all, but respondents just aren’t feeling Meta’s AI celebs as much as some good ole ChatGPT. 

“I asked Meta AI’s ‘Billie’ (Kendall Jenner-themed chatbot) to help me pick out some clothing options, and her suggestions, though they were headed in the right direction, were repetitive and general. She also said ‘yaaaasss’” and ‘vibes’ way too much. Cringe. Screams ‘how do you do, fellow kids?’” – 23, Woman, Florida 

Meta’s AI “Billie” Credit: 23, Woman, Florida

What about deep fake popes?

While respondents were fairly aligned on their favorite AI, there was a close split between their least favorite. Deep fakes (24%), AI influencers (23%), and AI-generated visuals (15%) came out on top as the least liked AI. 

While leveraging ChatGPT has become more commonplace in Gen Z’s classrooms and workplaces, it doesn’t mean there’s zero concern with the tool. Gen Z feels both ChatGPT/similar chat tools and AI-generated visual programs (e.g., DALL-E, Lensa’s AI) are a cause of concern for creatives. With content creation being made so easy by tech, young people are worried AI will affect jobs and encourage the use of stolen work. 

However, Gen Zers are even warier of deep fakes, the term coined for any media that has been digitally manipulated using AI to replace one person’s likeness with another’s. Deep fakes have inundated the internet, and while some may be funny or just plain bizarre, many others are being used maliciously, often using the faces of celebrities or authority figures to spread false information. Deep fakes are eroding Gen Z’s sense of trust even more in an age already rife with misinformation. 

AI influencers (e.g., Lil Miquela) also pose red flags for Gen Z, and this form of AI may not be the best way to foster a deeper connection with this generation. Human influencers still come out on top for brand partnerships, offering the ability to cultivate a connection between a brand and its audience in a way AI doesn’t quite (yet?) manage to. 

“I think AI influencers are less of something the current advertising landscape needs right now. The draw of hiring an influencer is their personal connection to their audience. AI is about as impersonal as it gets at the moment.” – 23, Woman, Florida  

Brands, proceed with caution

Respondents may be *mostly* on board with ChatGPT (after all, it’s finally sparing us from writing cover letters), but they’re not all that hype about using more AI in general. 

For brands considering using AI to draw in Gen Z consumers, tread carefully: While leveraging AI-generated content may seem useful, cheap, and convenient, it isn’t winning many favors with respondents. AI can’t replace human-made, human-centered work (especially the authenticity piece), but it can be supportive when used wisely. 

As AI evolves, watching out for AI-generated content like deep fakes will be more important than ever — especially since Gen Z’s obsession with AI might be an even deeper fake. 

Gretta Kissell
Gretta is an Associate Director of Research at JUV. When not writing or conducting research, they spend time supporting queer youth as a board member of OkaySo. Like many Gen Zers, Gretta is shameless about plugging social media, so go follow their account @gwillyk on Instagram.
Rian Weinstein

Rian Weinstein is the Associate Director of Research and a Consultant at JUV Consulting. 25 and from Manalapan, New Jersey, she will debate you on the existence of Central Jersey and how the popular Jersey breakfast meat is called pork roll (not Taylor ham). When Rian is not engaging in NJ-themed debates, she is scrolling through TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube watching food videos.