Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis open access



First Advisor

Althea Delwiche

Second Advisor

Rebecca Densley


What does it mean to truly be real? This question of authenticity is one that scholars have been asking for years, and it is now echoed by members of Generation-Z as they trailblaze a new frontier for media through social media platforms that encourage authenticity. Considering this shift in social media practices, Gen-Z users appear to be implementing a ‘realer’ approach to social media than previous generations’ edited and filtered content. However, does this ‘real’ content actually feel real to the users creating and consuming it? The abstract nature of the concept of authenticity creates a significant amount of ambiguity surrounding one singular definition and suggests that there is consistent development occurring in terms of Generation Z’s perception of authenticity, as well as their expectation of this characteristic from their peers on social media. Although authenticity is important to Gen-Z, research shows that members of this group can also be likely to shift their self-presentation dramatically based on the social media platform they are using, and follow practices of conformity with their own peers (Darr, 2022). The new social media platform BeReal offers a new opportunity for users to self-present authentically and could change the way that users define authenticity as a whole. In this study, Gen-Z social media users underwent in-depth qualitative interviews examining their perceptions and definitions of authenticity in order to offer commentary on how much Gen-Z is prioritizing authenticity on social media, and how well social media platforms are measuring up to their expectations.