Gen Z Action Guide

A youth-centered response to our shared social dilemma

The humane tech movement needs Gen Z – the most connected, socially and politically active, and educated generation yet. Though young people didn’t create this problem, your firsthand experiences and fresh perspectives can help change it. Through this short guide you will explore the problem and find ways to take action toward systemic solutions. Challenge yourself and friends to complete the whole guide, or select portions that align most with your interests.


A 5,000 person study found that higher social media use correlated with self-reported declines in mental and physical health and life satisfaction.

American Journal of Epidemiology, 2017

Persuasive design techniques like push notifications and the endless scroll of your newsfeed have created a feedback loop that keeps us glued to our devices.

In the film, we see several examples of individuals being more present with their phone than with their current surroundings. Is there a link between your use of certain technologies and how you feel, or the quality of your relationships?



Journal about your experience with social media for one day. Note how often you open your social apps, what you’re feeling when you get the itch, how much time you spend on them, what feelings come up as you’re scrolling or after you’re finished, and what types of posts or ads you see? Pro-tip: Navigate to your phone Settings and click Screen Time for a view of where you spend your most time.

Algorithms can learn your personality and serve you ads they think would be uniquely suited for you. The Social Dilemma film subject Tristan Harris explains in the film, “They know when people are lonely. They know when people are depressed. They know when people are looking at photos of your ex-romantic partners. They know what you’re doing late at night. They know the entire thing – whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert; what kind of neuroses you have; what your personality type is like.”  What do you think your favorite social media platforms know about you?



Take this Big Five personality test from Tactical Tech and see how your particular personality influences the ads you see. Then check out what Facebook predicts your interests are – how accurate are they?

The # of countries with political disinformation campaigns on social media doubled in the past 2 years.

New York Times

Social media advertising gives anyone the opportunity to reach huge numbers of people with phenomenal ease, giving bad actors the tools to sow unrest and fuel political divisions.

Social media advertising gives anyone the opportunity to reach huge numbers of people with phenomenal ease, giving bad actors the tools to sow unrest and fuel political divisions.

Senior Fellow at AI Now Institute Rashida Richardson says in the film, “We all simply are operating on a different set of facts. When that happens at scale, you’re no longer able to reckon with or even consume information that contradicts with that worldview that you’ve created. That means we aren’t being objective, constructive, individuals.” What news does the algorithm show you? Do you follow people and sources you disagree with? Why or why not?



Identify how the news feeds of Democrats and Republicans differ using The Markup’s Split Screen tool. Then compare each party’s views on a particular current event using The Flip Side or AllSides. Do you notice any trends? Pro-tip: Make your newsweeds disappear using using this News Feed Eradicator!

Former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris says in the film, “If we don’t agree on what is true or if there is such a thing as truth, we’re toast. This is the problem beneath other problems because if we can’t agree on what’s true, then we can’t navigate out of any of our problems.” What do you think are the foreseeable threats that misinformation poses to our society?



Take the Misinformation Medic’s misinformation quiz. With your new knowledge, use their misinformation checklist to find and identify one piece of misinformation online. From what sources do you typically get news and information? How do you know they’re trustworthy?

64% of the people who joined extremist groups on Facebook did so because the algorithms steered them there.

Internal Facebook report, 2018

Algorithms promote content that sparks outrage, hate, and amplifies biases within the data that we feed them.

Former Twitter Senior Director of Product Jeff Siebert says in the film, “Everything [we’re] doing online is being watched, is being tracked. Every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded.” Should we trust algorithms that rely on constantly surveilling our activities online, especially those that use our activities to make major decisions around employment, finances, housing, and what information we see and click?



Inspect how your favorite websites are tracking your activity online using The Markup’s Blacklight tool. How might this kind of behavior disproportionately impact certain communities? You can learn more about algorithmic scoring here.

Rapidly developed facial recognition technology powered by potentially-biased AI can have serious consequences for those it misidentifies. Where and how do you think human biases can show up in algorithms?



Take a selfie on PimEyes to see how well facial recognition technology can see and find you across the internet. Was it accurate for you? Should this technology be used in schools or by your local law enforcement? Why or why not?

Looking for more?


Now that you’re armed with knowledge about the issue, take action to reset your relationship with technology and help rebuild the system.


Take a social media reboot with your friends, family, or class to learn tools and tricks for taking back control over your relationship with technology – there are lots of ways to reclaim your freedom and wellbeing without getting off platforms altogether.

Create a family media agreement

Use Common Sense Media’s Family Media Agreement and Device Contract to set realistic rules that work for your family.  

Create more humane technology with your peers

Join a youth tech innovation community like LookupLive, Headstream or Girls Who Code.

Share your story

Share your experience with exploitative technology via the Center for Humane Technology’s #MySocialTruth campaign. If you’ve witnessed unjust artificial intelligence impacting you or others, share your story with the Algorithmic Justice League.   

Petition your school to introduce new tech policies

Ask your administrator if they have a tech policy, or one in the works. Do you feel that your school promotes positive uses of technology? What new norms might you consider introducing and sharing with your administration?  

Call on regulators to reform social media

Fight back by urging your representatives to take up the issue. Team up with others for The Social Dilemma Debate Project and submit a 2-minute video with your proposed solution to address the harms of Big Social’s business model.


Text START to 741-741 or

Visit the Liv Project if you’re in crisis or need support