“Gen Zers know the difference between rock-solid news and AI-generated memes. They just don’t care.”

Over the past couple of years, researchers at Jigsaw, a Google subsidiary that focuses on online politics and polarization, have been studying how Gen Zers digest and metabolize what they see online. The researchers were hoping that their work would provide one of the first in-depth, ethnographic studies of Gen Z’s “information literacy.” But the minute they started, their most fundamental assumption about the nature of digital information came crashing down.

“Within a week of actual research, we just threw out the term information literacy,” says Yasmin Green, Jigsaw’s CEO. Gen Zers, it turns out, are “not on a linear journey to evaluate the veracity of anything.” Instead, they’re engaged in what the researchers call “information sensibility” — a “socially informed” practice that relies on “folk heuristics of credibility.” In other words, Gen Zers know the difference between rock-solid news and AI-generated memes. They just don’t care.

Jigsaw’s findings offer a revealing glimpse into the digital mindset of Gen Z. Where older generations are out there struggling to fact-check information and cite sources, Gen Zers don’t even bother. They just read the headlines and then speed-scroll to the comments, to see what everyone else says. They’re outsourcing the determination of truth and importance to like-minded, trusted influencers. And if an article’s too long, they just skip it. They don’t want to see stuff that might force them to think too hard, or that upsets them emotionally. –MSN, “Google studied Gen Z. What they found is alarming,

While the breezy MSN article features an uninformative, clickbait headline, the actual Google study, “New contexts, old heuristics: How young people in India and the US trust online content in the age of generative AI,” has this abstract.

We conducted an in-person ethnography in India and the US to investigate how young people (18-24) trusted online content, with a focus on generative AI (GenAI). We had four key findings about how young people use GenAI and determine what to trust online. First, when online, we found participants fluidly shifted between mindsets and emotional states, which we term “information modes.” Second, these information modes shaped how and why participants trust GenAI and how they applied literacy skills. In the modes where they spent most of their time, they eschewed literacy skills. Third, with the advent of GenAI, participants imported existing trust heuristics from familiar online contexts into their interactions with GenAI. Fourth, although study participants had reservations about GenAI, they saw it as a requisite tool to adopt to keep up with the times. Participants valued efficiency above all else, and used GenAI to further their goals quickly at the expense of accuracy. Our findings suggest that young people spend the majority of their time online not concerned with truth because they are seeking only to pass the time. As a result, literacy interventions should be designed to intervene at the right time, to match users’ distinct information modes, and to work with their existing fact-checking practices.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *