The world is more connected than ever, enabling us to express ourselves in new and different ways. On the internet, we find belonging and we build communities. Here, we discuss how online identity has evolved over time, how different platforms work to shape digital identity, and what we can observe from salient Gen Z behaviors across platforms.
Index's Georgia Stevenson speaks with Alex Zaccaria, Co-Founder and CEO of Linktree, Jim Shepherd, Head of Talent Partnerships at Snap, Alex Masmej, Co-Founder & CEO of Showtime and Kudzi Chikumbu, Director of Creator Community at TikTok.
We have more ways than ever before to construct and project rich, multifaceted identities. At the same time, the proliferation of social media platforms has been implicated in a worsening youth mental health crisis. On this panel, some of the leading voices shaping digital selfhood today talk in depth about the relationship between creativity, authenticity and inclusion, and how social media can be marshalled to constructive ends.
Index Principal Georgia Stevenson begins by asking Jim Shepherd, head of talent partnerships for Snap, about how his team sees contemporary digital identity. He notes the importance of thinking of everyone as a creator, and talks about how Snap started as a communication platform for friends, and only gradually expanded to provide for wider audiences. While TikTok appears to have moved in the other direction, Kudzi Chikumbu, Director of Creator Community, says that their platform is still all about inspiring creativity and bringing joy, allowing people to express sides of themselves – such as a passion for urban foraging – that had previously remained hidden.
Alex Zaccaria, the co-founder and CEO of the ‘link-in-bio’ company Linktree, notes the importance of creators being able to bring together diverse parts of their identity in one place – while Alex Masmej, the co-founder and CEO of Showtime, talks about how he deployed an Ethereum Personal Token to monetise his identity, fund his trip to the US and allow followers to share in his future earnings.
The conversation shifts to the importance of designing for inclusive, ‘low pressure’ spaces for Gen Z users, and how alternative business models beyond advertising can foster more authentic online interactions. The group ends by considering the digital identity tools creators are still missing, and talking about the diverse needs of different groups within the creator class.