Goodwill Hunting #17: Gen Z & online identity
Gen Z feels more like their true selves online vs. offline
Welcome to Goodwill Hunting, a newsletter curated by Danielle L. Vermeer, a tech product manager and avid thrifter obsessed with making fashion more social, circular, and fun. This longer edition includes 7 thrift finds to shop, 1 monthly reflection, 5 consumer insights & industry news to read, and 11 jobs to explore.
♻️ Thrift Finds of the Week
What Wednesday Addams would wear if she thrifted 100% of her outfits
Vintage lace dress ($26) | 14K gold & onyx hoops ($37) | Dr. Martens boots ($31) | Betsey Johnson bag ($10) | LOFT pleated skirt ($8) | Murano glass figure ($24) | Addams Family 1991 VHS tape ($9)
💡 Monthly Reflection
My TikTok and Instagram algorithms are confused.
This week, I opened Instagram, got served multiple posts promoting being a TradWife, and then re-deleted the app. In early 2021, I deleted Instagram as part of a Lenten fast, and then…just never really came back. While I miss seeing posts from friends and acquaintances, I’m over the hyper-curated feeds and subtle recruitment tactics into a lifestyle that doesn’t align with my true self.
Apparently I’m not alone: only 20% of Gen Z said Instagram was their favorite social media app. Teens and twenty-somethings use Instagram begrudgingly, similar to how Millennials use Facebook. One Gen Z-er said, “I don’t even have Instagram on my phone anymore.” They’ve moved on from performative social media to more “authentic” and “real” platforms like TikTok and BeReal.
Who the algorithm thinks I am is different from who I actually am.
My hypothesis is that TikTok and Instagram are weighing certain demographics and attributes heavily in content recommendation, but not (yet) picking up other signals that would contextualize these inputs. Now that I’m in my early 30s, I know who I am. I have a more established sense of self than I did in my 20s—let alone as a (pre-)teen in the 90s/2000s. I’m less susceptible to trends, beauty norms, and societal expectations.
But the algorithm doesn’t “see” that.
“The glorification of busy will destroy us. Without space for healing, time for reflection, [or] an opportunity to surrender, we risk a complete disconnect from the authentic self. When we lost contact with our core, we are ripe for the picking by the unconscious media…After all, consumerism preys on the uncentered.” — Jeff Brown in Hearticulations
To a machine-driven algorithm, I overlap with many TradWife demographics and attributes. I’m white and married, had a midwife for unmedicated birthing center and homebirths, did exclusive and extended breastfeeding, practice Catholic faith, and follow Montessori educational philosophy. But these attributes aren’t the sum of my identity; they don’t tell the whole picture as someone who straddles multiple polarities—of living in the both/and vs. the either/or.
My URL identity doesn’t match by IRL identity.
As a Millennial, I don’t feel more like myself online than I do offline. According to a new Ogilvy Report, most Millennials feel this way. In contrast, as the first digitally native generation, most Gen Z feel the opposite: almost half say that they feel most like their true selves URL vs. IRL.
Gen Z is seeking authenticity over performativeness, self-expression over status, and genuine connections over passive audiences. They’re shifting to positive, authentic, and niche communities on Discord and Geneva, on Landing and Diem, and soon—on something I’m working on next.
Stay tuned for the next Goodwill Hunting for an exciting announcement! 🎉
📕 Weekend Reading
Thought-provoking reads at the intersection of fashion, content, and commerce.
SHEIN and the TikTok-ification of Fashion (LinkedIn)
Joanna Williams has been writing about the rise of SHEIN, Temu, Cider, and other direct-from-manufacturer China-based brands for over a year. ”With TikTok's ecommerce ambitions growing, it's time for America to stop competing on discounts…and lean into Gen Z needs for entertainment, authenticity, content creation, collaboration, and community to reinvent retail IRL.”
How China Got Our Kids Hooked on ‘Digital Fentanyl’ (Common Sense)
What are the long-term effects of easy dopamine? “TikTok is hoovering up seemingly infinite bits of information about its users—their tastes, hobbies, political views, sexual preferences, their facial structure, the sound of their voice…Every time we swipe for the next video, every time we post videos of our own, we are helping the world’s most sophisticated police state learn more about us.”
Everyone’s Over Instagram (The Atlantic)
In the Fall 2022 PiperSandler report, Instagram is now the third favorite social platform (-200bps vs. Spring 2022), after TikTok (+400bps) and Snap (-100bps). Kate Lindsey explains, “Instagram is giving us the ick…It faces an existential problem: What happens when the 18-to-29-year-olds who are most likely to use the app, at least in America, age out or go elsewhere?”
The Era of Antisocial Social Media (Harvard Business Review)
This HBR article from 2020 is becoming reality as we head into 2023. “They’re saying that after years spent constructing carefully curated online identities and accumulating heaps of online ‘friends,' they want to be themselves and make real friends based on shared interests.”
In the Next Era of Social, Build Rituals not Habits (Anu Atluru)
Web 2.0 social apps focused on maximizing DAUs and time spend in the app and serve more ads. In the next era of social, Anu Atluru believes that apps that create intentional, meaningful moments will rise above endless, mindless consumption. “Ritual social apps aim to create regular, purposeful moments, even if small ones; they’re at their best as a mindful microdose of meaning and feel-good.”
💼 Jobs & Opportunities
Message me if you’re interested in a role with an asterisk (*), as I may be able to connect you to the hiring manager.
*Beni — Senior Backend & Machine Learning Engineer (Santa Barbara, CA). Beni is like Honey for resale. Build and improve Beni’s recommendation algorithm that surfaces curated alternatives from secondhand marketplace.
*TikTok — Secondhand Fashion Business Development Manager (London, UK). Acquire and onboard secondhand and vintage merchants to TikTok.
*Farfetch — Buyback Project Manager (Lisbon, Portugal). Drive growth through luxury buyback business via Farfetch-owned LUXCLUSIF.
Anthropologie — Sustainability Manager (Philadelphia, PA). Develop and implement URBN’s sustainability and social impact strategy.
GOAT — Senior Manager, CRM & Lifecycle (Remote). Improve buyer retention and engagement through owned channels.
LePrix — B2B Marketing Manager (Bethesda, MD). Manage demand generation and retention programs for B2B luxury resale customers and wholesalers.
LiveAuctioneers — Senior Product Manager (Remote). Product leader for auction payments.
Malakye — Director, Circular Business & Recommerce (Colorado). Lead The North Face’s aspirations to lead circular business models in the outdoor industry.
Nuuly — Senior Software Engineer (Philadelphia, PA). Build software to scale URBN’s clothing rental subscription and peer-to-peer resale platform.
Treet — Account Executive (San Francisco, CA). Lead brand acquisition and engagement efforts for resale-as-a-service startup.
Trove — Strategic Partnerships Manager (Remote). Lead business development and partnerships for resale-as-a-service provider.
👋 Join the Community
Goodwill Hunting shares weekly, shorter roundups and a monthly, longer piece on the latest in fashion, tech, and resale.